By Kim-Vi Sweetman
Elm Staff Writer
If you visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, you’ll find some rather grim facts about smoking. For example, smoking causes lung cancer, contributes to about one in every five deaths in the U.S., and contributes to more deaths per year than several other factors combined. Even with the grim facts, even after the times I’ve seen people struggle to quit smoking only to relapse, and even though I don’t smoke myself, I believe that people on this campus should have the right to smoke.
The problem arises when Washington College is forced to regulate where people are allowed to smoke. Currently on the WC website, the smoking policy is listed as, “not permitted anywhere in WC buildings.” Which is fine, who wants to be in a smoke-filled building? It’s part of why you leave during a fire. Around certain dorms there is a no smoking zone of 15 to 20 feet. However, it appears that there is a transition in the works regarding the smoking policy.
For a while, the Health Center was receiving grants to reduce the number of student smokers on campus. Those grants have unfortunately stopped. While I do support the freedom for students to choose to smoke, I would at the same time rather not see future health complications coming out of peoples’ mouths. As outlined above, smoking does have repercussions. The grants and efforts of the Health Center must have worked, as 75 percent of 491 respondents in a recent survey reported that they do not smoke, and 72 percent said they would live on a smoke-free campus.
I have to wonder how much they actually care about others smoking on this campus. Clearly they are here, and its not a smoke-free campus, so there’s got to be something that has a greater appeal than any disgust they might feel towards smoking. (Maybe it’s the education?)
The SGA is working to make a team to investigate this subject. The aim is to create a team that will have equal representation from students, faculty, and staff. My worry is that the administration will try and go over the heads of the students. Faculty and staff have a significant say in what happens here on campus, but there are a lot of students. Not as many as at other, smoke-free campuses, but there is still quite a bit of diversity in opinion.
Right now my biggest complaint would be walking through a haze of smoke – once in a while – to enter buildings such as Toll. Both are heavily populated during the day, and it is understandable that someone is going to have a smoke break at some point. Is it obnoxious to walk through to get to class? Yes, but usually there is another door. Besides, the trash cans for cigarette butts have been put right next to the doors. It’s the same around the dorms. Maybe we could just start by moving the trash cans? It would encourage those who smoke to stand apart from the entrance ways while smoking, and hopefully reduce whatever level of complaint is going on.
To sum up my view, in case it has gotten a little confusing: no, I don’t smoke and I don’t like smoking. At the same time, I am not one of the few who do smoke, nor do I believe that the Health Center will be able to stop students from smoking. I believe in the freedom to choose. You can’t convert everyone.