Alyssa Rosenthal: A breath of fresh, clean air

When I walk out of Gelman Library, I first heave a sigh of relief. Then I let out a small gag.

As smoke fills my lungs, I have, even momentarily, felt as though I was sucking down a cigarette.

While I don’t have anything against smokers, I do not want to be threatened with secondhand smoke every time I want to take a stroll or get to class. As it is, the University does not give non-smokers the choice to inhale. The University needs to implement a stricter policy that regulates smoking and makes its anti-smoking campaign more public.

As a school always looking for the newest trend, we clearly missed the bandwagon on all-school smoking bans. Ozarks Technical Community College, located in Springfield, Mo., initiated the first smoke-free campus in 2003. Since then, more than 530 campuses are now 100-percent smoke free, even outside. How much is it to ask that we at least limit where smoking is allowed on our campus?

This initiative should focus on more than just helping people quit. It should pave the way to less smoke on campus. The University, being in the city, can’t ban smoking on campus like other schools can, because sidewalks and roads are public spaces. But there are zones that are under the University’s jurisdiction that it should work to make cigarette-free.

Kogan Plaza, University Yard and the spaces between buildings and sidewalks are all zones where smoking should be banned.

It is difficult to enjoy smelling the flowers in U-Yard when all you can smell is the person smoking in the middle of the garden. It is even more difficult to try to walk out of a class when it is raining and people are literally smoking right outside the main doorway.

The University’s response to smoking on campus is passive, at best. It does not regulate where students can smoke or actively work to lessen the secondhand smoke, so many non-smokers still inhale. GW’s “Be a Quitter!” campaign simply provides resources for those students who, on their own, seek to kick their habits.

And we don’t even know how successful that is in its purpose, anyway.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said that, because the campaign is an awareness-raising resource, “It is hard for us to track the number of people who have accessed the resources, as that information is dependent on whether they are a student, faculty, staff or other GW community member.”

This campaign still does not look at how much the non-smokers on campus are being affected.

So far, it is understood that non-smokers should just ignore it and move on. But that isn’t enough.

It’s time to take a breath and take a stand. It is not only the University’s fault that smoking has gotten carried away.  As students and residents in this environment, an anti-smoking campaign that benefits us is essential.

Alyssa Rosenthal, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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