Starting today, the University of Kentucky is a tobacco-free place.
Members of the UK community aren’t alone. In 2007, 43 college campuses were smoke-free. Now that number is closer to 60. It’s time for GW to follow suit.
Smoking cigarettes is unlike any other vice. Most vices are exclusive to the perpetrator, but smoking is forced upon others through second-hand smoke, which has become the third leading cause of preventable death, according to studies from the Center for Tobacco Policy Research.
As smokers, we make excuses: We promise to quit after college, or say the facts just aren’t true. But smoking is not like eating too many Georgetown Cupcakes – the effects are internal and take years, not hours, to show up. We do not get a sense of the change occurring within. I wonder if we gained weight with each cigarette, would we still do it?
At GW, encounters with second-hand smoke have become unavoidable, partly because college students tend to smoke more than any other age group. And while everyone else is decreasing his or her use of tobacco, we continue to smoke at a greater and greater rate, according to the American Cancer Society Action Network.
GW should begin to implement a smoke-free campus. Even though this has been attempted before and the blurry boundaries of our campus make this difficult, we must begin to accept the idea that GW could one day have a smoke-free campus.
The way to start, as many other colleges have, is to establish specific smoking areas. By doing so, the University would not be forcing students to quit smoking, but would be making an attempt to lessen the exposure of second-hand smoke. Also, the University would be making significant strides in decreasing on-campus littering. With the addition of smoking areas, discarded cigarette butts would be disposed in a receptacle instead of on the sidewalk.
Earlier this year, graduate students from the School of Public Health proposed a campus-wide smoking ban. The policy was reviewed in May and it seems that no changes have been made; smoking is still only prohibited inside of all University facilities. But going from a smoker-friendly campus to a smoke-free one is not accomplished in one step. Rather, it is a process.
Naturally, smokers would be against this change to the campus. Cigarettes are legal products with which smokers can do whatever they choose. Initial opposition exists with most changes, just as in 2004 when smoking in the work place was banned in Lexington, Ky.(the nation’s largest tobacco-producing city).
Extensive research conducted in the three months before and after the law was put into place showed that at first the public was outraged, but acceptability increased significantly once the law was implemented – maybe because studies showed a big improvement in air quality.
Even though the opposition may be great, this change is necessary, and needs to be carried out.
Not only does creating a smoke-free campus benefit our health, it benefits the economy as well. When Lexington went smoke-free, Kentucky saved $21 million a year from smoking-related costs. Following this model, if one city in every state went smoke-free, that could save a total close to $1 billion.
There are 200 poisonous chemical compounds found in second-hand smoke – 60 of which are carcinogens, meaning they cause cancer. The bottom line is that second-hand smoke kills.
Kentucky’s economy is dependent upon the production of tobacco. If they can go smoke-free, we can certainly be ‘buff enough’ to implement a smoke-free campus.
The writer is a freshman majoring in journalism.
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This article appeared in the November 19, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.