The opinion of Alexa Horn
Breathe in. Do you smell that? You’re sitting outside on a campus bench, enjoying the long-awaited warm weather, and then a breeze ruffles your hair. As you inhale, you expect the crisp smell of spring’s beginning. Instead, you get an unwelcome lungful of cigarette smoke. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this isn’t a rare event.
Currently, UNL allows smoking on campus, excluding inside buildings and campus vehicles. Students and faculty are free to puff within 10 feet of campus buildings, meaning quite a bit of campus is fair game. For us nonsmokers, this can be disruptive at times. Whether we’re walking to class or just enjoying the fresh air, we shouldn’t have to be exposed to secondhand smoke, which has been proven to have adverse effects.
A 2014 report by the Surgeon General found almost 2.5 million nonsmokers have died since 1964 because of secondhand smoke. When smoke exposure can cause serious issues such as coronary heart disease, strokes and lung cancer, it only makes sense to protect those who don’t wish to smoke.
But what about the traditional cigarette’s trendy cousin, the e-cigarette? As it stands, the medical community isn’t sure what effect e-cigarette vapors have on nearby non-vapers. The World Health Organization suggested banning them indoors, but outdoors, where the vapor has room to dispel, secondhand vapor may not be a problem. Though I don’t care for the smell of e-cig vapor, there’s currently not a lot of evidence that it should be banned on campus.
Although it would be good to see UNL create a no-smoking policy (excluding e-cigs), this does not mean I’m calling for government legislation on the problem. Having a sweeping ban on smoking seems extreme, but it’s fair to allow universities to place their own restrictions. If students and faculty absolutely have to smoke, they’d have the ability to leave campus. This would be annoying to them, but it may encourage some people to quit smoking. That said, about 17 percent of adults smoke, so it’s important to acknowledge how many people would be affected by a change in policy.
The transition would be difficult for smokers, but it’s about time UNL hops on board with the smoke-free movement. The University of Nebraska-Omaha plans on becoming a completely smoke-free and tobacco-free campus beginning August 2016. The University of Nebraska Medical Centerdoesn’t allow smoking, including e-cigarettes, anywhere on campus. As a medical organization, I’m sure it recognizes the dangers smoking poses to students.
These Nebraskan universities aren’t the only ones to adopt smoke-free campus policies. According to the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative, there are currently 1,475 U.S. college campuses that are smoke free (this does not include e-cigarettes). In 2012, there were only 774. I can only hope the number will continue to increase.
I’m writing this as I sit at my ridiculously cluttered desk in the basement of the Nebraska Union. Even here, in the DN office, I can’t escape the smell of smoke that’s somehow managing to filter through the closed window next to me. This is the reason I’m asking for a smoke-free campus. I’m concerned about my health and the health of others who choose not to smoke.
Despite our decision to not smoke, we can’t escape. And we shouldn’t have to. I’m probably biased as a non-smoker, but it seems to me that the nonsmoker sitting on the bench admiring the finally-warm weather should be the one to stand their ground, not the person polluting the air.
A smoke-free campus policy would give non-smokers that breath of fresh air we need. And though it would also have the positive effect of helping current smokers quit, I’m not asking that UNL try to micromanage people’s health choices. That said, my eating a greasy Runza instead of a salad doesn’t affect the people sitting next to me. Smoking does. Cigarettes on campus became UNL’s business the moment the smoke plumes began drifting over to the nonsmoking students simply wanting to enjoy the outdoors.
For more information visit: HORN: Keep Cigarettes off Campus