Campus in need of designated smoking areas

The first lovely days of spring have arrived, and campus is abuzz with the sound of vitamin D-starved college students shedding their heavy winter coats for slightly lighter coats.

The air is fresh and clean. But then you smell it: a cigarette permeating the crisp air.

Smoking is a fairly common habit on the Puget Sound campus, given that according to the National Institutes of Health, 33 percent of all college students in the United States smoke.

Smoking is a personal choice, and whether you do it or not is up to you.

Secondhand smoke, however, may negatively impact non-smoking students on their way around campus.

Similarly, students with respiratory problems are directly impacted by smokers as cigarette smoke worsens the quality of air these students need to breathe.

Lewis and Clark College has found a great solution to the problem enacted in August of 2010 in response to a survey that showed 73 percent of campus members wanted a change in where people smoked on campus.

Instead of banning smoking entirely, which probably would have been difficult to enforce, the college established designated smoking areas all around campus.

These areas are situated away from public areas that see frequent foot traffic, but are still close enough to campus that neither smokers nor non-smokers are inconvenienced.

The University has a great pick of choices for locations: perhaps a few close to the dorms in central campus areas and one across from the Diversions patio so that smoke does not enter the café when the door opens.

The designated smoking areas could also take care of environmental concerns by having ashtrays situated nearby, which would keep the rest of campus clean and cigarette-free.

The University’s official policy on smoking, according to the Puget Sound website, is that “non-smokers are guaranteed smoke-free air…Smoking is prohibited in all academic, administrative, residential and public buildings of the University.”

Smokers have the right to smoke outside on campus, and non-smokers have the right to clean air; smoking areas would ensure that everyone can choose whether or not to be around smoke.

Junior Melanie Young expressed approval for the establishment of these designated smoking areas on Puget Sound’s campus.

“Establishing designated smoking areas is fair to students with respiratory problems or for people who are sensitive to the smell of smoke,” Young said.

“When smokers are out on the café patio, they’re not only affecting the environment for customers inside, but they’re also breaking the law.”

According to Washington state’s Smoking in Public Places Act of 2005, smokers must be 25 feet away from public places and places of employment.

This law is relevant to all buildings on campus, including residence halls.

The creation of designated smoking areas would place smokers in a better position by physically showing smokers where it is most appropriate and legal to smoke.

In addition to problems surrounding legality, in recent years scientific evidence has also begun to emerge showing that even trace amounts of secondhand smoke can be dangerous to your health.

The National Institute of Health showed that secondhand smoke contains over 7000 different chemicals, 70 of which are carcinogenic.

“I really don’t mind smoking, but be courteous about it,” freshman Eileen Sheats said.

“I don’t want the smell to get in my face, since it’s not the greatest smell in the world to get hit with out of nowhere.”

People who would like the ability to choose whether or not to be around secondhand smoke would be able to do so with the establishment of designated smoking areas.

“Depending on the microenvironment, you can get very high levels of secondhand smoke outdoors,” Stanton Glantz of the University of California San Francisco said in a publication by the National Institute of Health.

Studies have shown that no amount of secondhand smoke exposure is safe, even just in passing.

There are no positive benefits to smoking, so the autonomy of non-smokers to decide whether or not they would like to be around smoke is crucial to respect.

There is also the simple courtesy factor: non-smokers feel a bit rude making a face as they suddenly come within close proximity to smoke; smokers do not want to make anyone uncomfortable.

Designated smoking areas would help both parties navigate the difficult situation of trying not to come off as disrespectful while conveying their wants.

Areas that keep smoking and non-smoking separate, both of which are convenient for both sides, can help keep everyone happy.