I am minding my own business walking down Commonwealth Avenue, breathing in some fresh air, when I start choking on a mouthful of cigarette smoke. Or maybe I’m not walking; maybe I’m just trying to get my daily dose of vitamin D by studying outside when my nostrils and lungs are violated by the horrible smell of smoke.
Either way, Boston University has a smoking problem. Crowds of smokers hang outside the George Sherman Union, Warren Towers and many other buildings to light up. Sometimes students don’t even wait until they are outside. I once saw a kid start lighting his cigarette before he was out the door of 100 Bay State Road.
I’m surprised BU hasn’t done more to restrict smokers on campus. Sure, they aren’t allowed to smoke inside residences or buildings, but it seems that outside, they can smoke wherever their hearts desire (although they aren’t doing their hearts any favors).
We all know smoking is bad for us. In case you needed a refresher, the American Lung Association reported that about 8.6 million Americans have at least one serious illness caused by smoking. It is the most important source of preventable disease, illness and premature death worldwide. So why you would even want to inhale chemicals into your lungs with all these risks is beyond me.
However, it’s not just the smokers who are suffering. Each year, approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths occur from secondhand smoke involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that even brief exposure could be harmful to health. Especially if it’s happening every time you walk down Commonwealth Avenue.
Many smokers argue that, “If you don’t like my smoking, then don’t stand near me when I’m smoking.” Which is fine and dandy if there is one smoker in front of you or outside of a building. But when every smoker thinks like this, it can be hard to walk past the three groups of people walking in front of you with cigarettes in their hands or the three or four separate smoking groups hanging outside the GSU. I have also experienced on multiple occasions smokers sitting down and lighting up next to me after I have already settled into an area. Should I be forced to leave even though I’m not negatively impacting others’ health?
BU is putting its students at risk by allowing so much smoking on campus. Now, I know it’s unreasonable to ask everyone who smokes to suddenly quit, but maybe if we put all the smokers in a little box and…okay, okay, all joking aside, there has to be a solution.
Many colleges in the United States are now enforcing a smoke-free campus, including the BU Medical Campus. However, instead of addressing the matter as a legal or law enforcement issue, BU should view it as a public health issue. Instead of punishing smokers for having an addiction that they have already developed, BU should promote services to help solve the problem.
One initiative could include engaging faculty and student smokers in programs to promote health and help quit smoking. Setting up designated, semi-private, smoking areas on campus could help protect nonsmokers’ health and make it safer for them to walk through campus. I know I wouldn’t mind avoiding smoking areas if it meant I could get fresh air everywhere else.
Smoking is a problem that is much bigger than this campus. It’s a worldwide issue that many nations are battling. Some are fighting to require strict packaging laws, some are launching no smoking campaigns and some are banning smoking from public places. Either way, many countries are fighting back at the companies that produce the addicting, harmful sticks that unnecessarily take and change lives forever.
CVS Pharmacy recently pulled tobacco products from their stores in an effort to commit to being a brand devoted to health. I commend CVS for being a leader and wanting to protect their customers. It sends a message to consumers and other companies that tobacco is harmful, and it’s time to take a stand. I think this is a big step in the right direction.
Now, I may be a little biased against all this smoking business because my dad used to smoke, and my mom’s health is slowly declining with no help from the cigarettes she smokes every day. Or because I watch my grandfather, a former smoker, live attached to an oxygen machine because of smoking-induced emphysema. Witnessing the damaging and deteriorating effects of smoking can be a strong deterrent from smoking.
A smoke-free campus would protect the health of BU students, faculty, staff and anyone who frequents our campus. BU would be joining the movement against big tobacco and all of its harmful side effects. And maybe, just maybe, the next generation of students will finally be able to get a breath of fresh air.