Our campus has a smoking problem; let’s address it

MEGAN DONNELLY / FOR THE NEWS-LETTER

MEGAN DONNELLY / FOR THE NEWS-LETTER

BY WILL MARCUS

I never thought I would support any policy that limits the freedom of an individual, but smoking on campus has to go. This is not the type of issue I would normally get worked up about, since I enjoy a celebratory cigar every once in a while, but I recently had a conversation that drove me to action.

I attended the office hours of Professor Jeffrey Brooks’ early last week, and somehow we ended up talking about how smoking has become such a campus blight. Halfway through the conversation I asked if I could get a quotation from him.

“Isn’t it time for Hopkins to do the right thing?” he said. “If you Google it you’ll find that other parts of the Hopkins institutional network have already banned smoking on campus. Other colleges and universities have also banned smoking. Some leading institutions around the borders of campus have already banned smoking. Hopkins has such a beautiful campus. Is it the intention of our administration that when someone walks out on the beautiful upper quad the first thing they see are ashtrays filled with month old cigarette butts floating in a disgusting milieu of rotting tobacco and stagnant rain water? The only saving grace is that mosquitoes can’t breed in the water because of all the toxic chemicals. Maryland has laws prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of a building, but no one seems to enforce them here,” he said.

The man is right, people.

After we finished talking I left Gilman Hall through the front door and immediately picked up the acrid smell of secondhand smoke. Two students were leaning against the wall smoking, not six feet away from the front entrance. I continued my walk home and encountered another smoker, a Hop Cop, enjoying a cigarette on a bench offset two feet from the covered path through the Brody courtyard. This is one of the few campus choke points where throngs of students pass to and from class all day. I shudder to imagine how many pairs of class-bound lungs inhaled smoke from that one cigarette alone. So there I was, within three minutes of my long conversation with Professor Brooks about our campus smoking blight, and I had already received two blasts secondhand smoke before I even left the Keyser Quad.

Anyone who knows me would be surprised that I am advocating for the administration to limit any personal freedom, even that of smokers. I just believe that smoking outdoors in public spaces affects the health of more than the individual smoker. A large contingency of students and University affiliates feel that campus smokers threaten their health. As such I think that smokers are limiting others people’s freedoms. Everyone has a right to breathe clean air, and if someone lights up a cigarette right in a campus choke point, everyone else has no other option but to walk directly through the secondhand smoke or take a long detour and possibly be late to class.

Furthermore the employees who work near the entrances to buildings, where smokers gravitate, have to deal with an unsafe workplace that they undoubtedly aren’t compensated for. I remember during my freshman year several of my friends had dorm rooms that overlooked the AMR courtyards. I remember being jealous of their interesting view until they began to complain about how their rooms would smell like stale cigarettes if they kept their windows open.

I do not propose that the University ban smoking outright. Such a policy would be too draconian against smokers. Instead I propose like many before me that the University designate smoking areas far away from the entrances to buildings and high foot traffic choke points. There is a lot of poorly travelled space on the Homewood Campus that would could reconcile smoker convenience with the public health concerns of non-smokers. The least the University could do is mandate our security team to keep smokers at least 25 feet away from building entrances and major foot traffic choke points.

We all should have the right to breathe clean air, and the smoking minority does not have to acquiesce much to address the concerns of the non-smoking majority.

Will Marcus is a Political Science and International Studies double major from Austin, Texas. He is the Opinions Editor.

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