Letters to the Editor do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.
Everyone knows smoking cigarettes is bad for you, right? Wrong. A look around Boston University’s main campus reveals that many students are seemingly unaware of or unconcerned about the health risks of smoking. I’m including vaping, which may not seem to be as harmful as cigarettes, but I am writing this letter as an asthma sufferer.
When I walk to and from class, I have to give some thought to the pockets of cigarette smoke that I need to avoid in order to stave off an asthma attack. If I eat my lunch at a table in the George Sherman Union courtyard and a cigarette smoker sits down next to me, I have to leave. I have to cut a wide swathe around the entrance to the Questrom building.
That’s in warm weather. In cold weather, almost all buildings will have a cluster of cigarette smokers and “vapers” near the doorway, which means that I will likely inhale smoke on the way in or out.
I have had an asthma attack in class because of a student’s smoke-tinged coat. I have had an asthma attack after walking into Yawkey (where my office is) behind a student who brazenly inhaled from a vaping pen near the elevators. I have had an asthma attack in the GSU courtyard while eating my PBJ sandwich.
My officemate also suffers from asthma, and if statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are any indication, we represent the one in 12 Americans afflicted with this respiratory ailment. This means that many of us are likely also teaching students who have asthma.
It is ironic to me that I have to be so vigilant about where and what I breathe at BU. Researchers at the BU School of Public Health were instrumental in passing local laws to protect restaurant and bar workers from indoor cigarette smoke. The ordinances prohibit smoking in shared work spaces and places where people eat and drink.
I submit that BU is not doing enough to protect its non-smoking population from secondhand smoke or the exhalation from vaping pens. Smoking should not be allowed in the GSU courtyard, given that people eat and drink there. Smokers should not be permitted to cloister around doorways; they should smoke at least twenty feet away from entrances to buildings. It’s not helpful to keep smoking outside if you still have to walk through it on the way inside. Paint or signage: inexpensive and easy ways to mark where smokers can do their thing.
Under no circumstances should anyone be vaping inside buildings.
More importantly, BU should undertake an aggressive campaign to educate its students about the individual and public health hazards of smoking, as it does with other risky behaviors. It is a critical part of any and all discussions of individual and public health costs, now and down the line.
Next up: Health risks of texting while walking.
Melanie S. Smith
College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program