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OPINION: A breath of fresh air

Naila Dhanani: Breathe clean air; end on-campus smoking

Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that tobacco use causes 443,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and more than 5 million deaths per year worldwide. About 50,000 of the U.S. deaths are the result of secondhand smoke.

Cancer, heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases can result from tobacco use and exposure to tobacco use, but this is no surprise. In fact, the health warnings are written on the cigarette boxes.

Even so, these warnings clearly haven't deterred smokers from lighting up. And the great thing about living in a free country is it's no one's business if someone wants to willingly harm him- or herself. And everyone's entitled to live their life the way they see fit, right?

Wrong — if it means others are in danger. Secondhand smoke is hazardous to one's health and can cause a number of problems — asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer. Ask yourself: Would you like to suffer an early death simply so that a smoker can enjoy a few moments of tobacco-induced pleasure?

Cigarettes are dangerous and have no place in high-traffic areas of a college campus, where nonsmoking students cannot avoid the exposure. If smokers want to light up in their home or private facility, fine. But a campus wide smoking ban would protect those who want to protect their health.

Texas A&M has said in Appendix IX of its student rules, "The simple separation of buildings into ‘smoking' and ‘nonsmoking' sections does not eliminate the unequivocal health risks that result from environmental tobacco smoke."

Yet our University maintains designated smoking areas outdoors. To fully satisfy the health and well being of its students, faculty, staff and community, University administration should ban tobacco use entirely throughout campus.

This is not a novel idea. In fact, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law an outdoor citywide smoking ban in May.

It's time to stop protecting the rights of cigarette smokers and start protecting those who want to breathe clean air. We have a right to be protected from the toxic effects of tobacco use. I urge the administration to designate the entire University as smoke-free and bring us one step closer to a healthier and cleaner campus.

Smoking is not a fundamental right. Breathing clean air is.  

Naila Dhanani is a junior biomedical sciences major and opinion editor.

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