University smoking ban in best interest of campus

The new year always fosters new beginnings and a chance to start fresh. The ARC and CRCE will become two of the most popular locations on campus when we get back from break, and people will become more concerned, most likely temporarily, about their mental and physical wellness.

Well, this year, a part of that concern should be satisfied in a way that doesn’t require any work from the individual. And that’s because on the first day of the new year, smoking tobacco products on the University of Illinois campus will be banned.

Upon hearing the news of the University smoking ban, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I always believed that a person should have the liberty to smoke where they choose. We’re armed with the facts and it’s up to us to acknowledge them or ignore them. An estimated 443,000 people die prematurely every year due to tobacco use, and another 8.6 million live with serious illnesses caused by smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. Not to mention secondhand smoke has also been proven to be harmful. But who is the government or any public entity to tell others where to smoke? This is a free country, after all.

On the other hand, there is no argument against the fact that smoking is dangerous. Aren’t we morally obligated to look out for the best interests of our friends and family? To ensure that they take the steps to live as healthy of a life as possible? Literally with every inhale, smokers take they bring themselves that much closer to death. And by making it that much more difficult to satisfy their harmful addiction, we’re offering them even more incentives to quit. Quitting early can save the lives of so many, but the failure to do so has brought us the loss of many loved ones.

ABC’s World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings who died at age 67, could have spent a few more years behind the news desk but had to step down due to his diagnosis of lung cancer. Patrick Swayze, who died at age 57, still had time to star in so many great movies, but the progression of his pancreatic cancer, which he linked with smoking cigarettes, kept him from doing so and killed him one year later.

In recent months, my beliefs and values have been developing, and I have brought myself to fall in line with the mindset that action should be taken to restrict the habits of smokers.

The University’s ban on smoking is in the best interest of the entire campus community. But I don’t support it out of my grave concern for the smokers themselves, but due to the health and safety of nonsmokers, who suffer at the stake of the smokers’ selfish habits. This is a matter of public safety and concern.

As a nonsmoker, I’m still impartial and don’t pass judgment toward people who do smoke. Of course, I’d strongly advise any smoker against their acts but like I said, they know what they’re doing to themselves, and if they choose to suffocate their lungs and feed into the heartless tobacco company’s profits then please, be my guest.

But as a nonsmoker, I don’t appreciate being subjected, unwillingly, to the negative impacts your habits inflict on my health. The American Cancer Society identifies two different types of secondhand smoke — mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke. Mainstream is the smoke from the lighted end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar; sidestream smoke is the smoke the smoker exhales. Both forms of smoke are present and both are dangerous. Sidetream smoke contains smaller particles of cancer-causing agents, which makes it easier for them to find their way into the lung’s and body’s cells.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke and that nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of heart disease and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. This is primarily because of the 7,000 chemicals in cigarettes; hundreds of them are incredibly toxic, and 70 of them are known to potentially cause cancer.

What I hope this ban will do is create an incentive to not smoke. Like a sales tax on cigarettes, it will discourage smokers from continuing their habits and hopefully be the driving force for those on campus who have been trying to quit.

While we have yet to see what types of enforcement will take place, it’s assuring to see that the University has at least acknowledged the problem. While the grips of a cigarette addiction won’t magically loosen itself, the ban is the start of a transition that will lead to an increased quality of life for all and ensure that no one is subject to unwanted and unavoidable harms.

Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MatthewPasquini.