Cigarette smoking is one of the most unhealthy and most disgusting habits that we still engage in. It makes clothing, hair, and fingers reek of tobacco. It can bring lung and mouth cancer, emphysema, and has brought most smokers chronic bronchitis.It is also the right of every American over the age of 18.
I am a smoker. I haven’t quit because I don’t want to, and I am well aware of the ills of cigarettes. Along with any other adult, I have the right to smoke. At the same time, I have no right to force others to inhale my second-hand smoke. For this reason, I fully support Pennsylvania’s recent smoking ban. Now, restaurants, most bars, and basically all other business establishments cannot allow smokers. This is appropriate and overdue.
That being said, the State System of Higher Education’s ban on smoking is ludicrous at best, and illegal at worst. While no one should be forced to inhale cigarette smoke, anti-smoking laws have acknowledged that smoking in open air has little, if any, effect on those who don’t smoke.
The PASSHE apparently doesn’t believe this; for whatever reason, they’ve decided that even in open air, no smoking is to be permitted on their property – which includes most of West Chester University’s campus. It is important to note, though, that public sidewalks, including Church St., Rosedale Ave., Sharpless St., New St., High St., and the east half of University Ave., do not fall under this ban. They are public roads, and university policies do not apply there.
As the reader can likely guess, I do not support this PASSHE ban at all, for a few reasons. Firstly, the law enacted by the state is called the “Indoor Clean Air Act.” This title explicitly states that the law applies to indoor locations and not outdoor ones.
Secondly, there are several thousand students who live here on campus, who now have to leave to smoke, in an area where muggings are frequent and most of our emergency towers don’t actually work. Finally, this is an issue which affects staff and faculty as well, and neither of their unions had any concerns about this ban addressed.
But the icing on the cake, so to speak, is the penalty for smoking a cigarette on campus- a fine of anywhere from $250-$1000. This is as expensive as textbooks, which most of us have a hard enough time affording. Furthermore, this penalty is not imposed by the state for breaking a law, but imposed by PASSHE for breaking a ban which is likely unlawful in the first place.
Until or unless the ban is repealed, it is obviously important for us to smoke only where we cannot be fined. But I suggest that a hard fight be fought – this is not an issue of health, but of rights. Smokers and non-smokers alike should be outraged that anyone’s rights are being infringed upon; a dangerous precedent is being set, and standing by passively acknowledges that we are ready and willing to let our lives be run by the powers that be.
Tim Burke is a third-year student majoring in Philosophy. He can be reached at TB640301@wcupa.edu