16 January 2009

UBreathe Free

I saw that the front page article for the university's paper today was about the debate that is on-going for and against the current initiative that the whole university, with all of its three campuses, would go smoke-free starting next semester of Fall 2009. Many students are either for or against it.

I wholeheartedly support it.

I could see why there could be students and other people who would be against this. After all, this is a state university. This is not a private university, and therefore, the administration should not insist on its faculty, students, and staff to follow certain rules, like adhering to some Code of Conduct.A state university should be by all means democratic, following the wishes of the taxpayer.

Smoking is also in a way, a personal right. If people reason this way, then yes, one has the right to kill oneself. I totally understand that argument. So, if I choose to buy a pack of cigarettes and kill myself slowly but sweetly, then nobody should stop and prevent me. I have the right to breathe, I also have the right to terminate my breathing.

I am a non-smoker.

Thus, no matter how hard people argue for their right to die, no matter how hard people argue for their right to suck 4,000 different types of chemicals and have them bond to the oxygen molecules in their lungs, no matter how arguing for those rights is indeed a statement of personal choice of which I am an advocate of, I would never argue for the right to kill another person just because you want to kill yourself as well.

Both the American Lung Association and the National Cancer Institute have published the dangers of secondhand smoke. There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Thus, if smokers are exercising their right to kill themselves, I am also exercising my right to live. And if my university will go smoke-free starting next semester, I will support it.

Some people argue that a total ban on smoking, including buildings, parking lots, and open spaces is incredulous. They say that this ban was unilaterally passed, and is a violation of personal choice, since after all, smoking is not illegal. Yes, smoking is not illegal, but killing other people is. It may be a personal choice for the smoker to blacken their lungs, but it is never a personal choice for the other person inhaling that smoke that the smoker just exhaled after a joint.

(To the Old Grave, from my Mount Vernon Series)


  1. As a smoker, I never ever smoke indoor. I respect and suport smoke free restaurants, bars etc.

    That said, I think baning smoking outdoor is going too far. Smokers are usually respectful in North America (many are used to regulations, unlike in Asia or Latin American where people smoke everywhere!) and it is a bit unfair to ban them completely where they don`t bother people... such as outdoor.

  2. Zhu,

    Then I think the solution is to build smoking booths like what I see in European public places. I saw one in Copenhagen's airport, a small room used for smoking.

    The thing with smoking outdoors is that it cannot be regulated. That's why I think this initiative by the university is a good idea. And the thing that is surprising to me is why tobacco isn't considered illegal. It can kill oneself right? So why is it not considered similar to firearms or illegal drugs?

  3. Linguist-in-Waiting,

    You make an excellent argument. I only disagree with you on one point: smoking is not a personal choice, its an addiction.

    As one of UB's many smokers, who have tried to quit many times before, I can attest to how difficult a task it is. The decision to start smoking may be a choice, but the decision to keep smoking isn't. Its a physical and psychological addiction. It becomes compulsory.

    Nicotine has been ranked time and time again as the most habit-forming substance on the planet, even above illegal drugs like heroine.

    When I see or smell cigarettes on campus, it makes quitting that much worse. UB's main goal in enacting this ban is to help smokers quit, and I support it wholeheartedly as well.