Opinion | Op-eds

Don't ostracize smokers with USenate ban

  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    light it up | People shouldn't be so quick to judge and inconvenience smokers.

Fourteen percent of New Yorkers smoke. That’s one in seven people. I am that seventh person, the seventh that the Columbia University Senate voted last May to ostracize, inconvenience, and marginalize with its freedom-curtailing measure to take effect in July.

When people ask me why I smoke, I tell them I’m an addict. When they ask me why I began, I tell them because of my friends, like most other smokers. They ask me if I regret starting. For a number of very personal reasons, my answer is no, and always will be. I’m physically fit, and I don’t take drugs. I’m perfectly aware that smoking isn’t particularly rich in vitamin C—you don’t need to tell me. Smoking is something that I get pleasure from, something that relaxes me in the middle of a stressful day. Where you shotgun a watery excuse for beer or blaze a joint or stuff your face with greasy fries and artificial burgers from JJ’s, I take a couple of puffs on my cancer sticks and get back to work.

We all have our vices. Smoking is just one of the easiest one to pick on. I recently saw an anti-smoking campaign whose slogan was, “If you smoke, you stink.” Fair enough. But would they have dared to put up a poster saying, “If you’re fat, you’re ugly”? Why not? Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in New York, and yet I don’t see the University trying to stop dining halls from serving heart attacks with a side of fries on a daily basis.

The new limitations on smoking are, of course, with the interests of non-smokers in mind. To those individuals: The effects of passive smoke are no worse than those of living in a polluted city such as New York. In fact, the only people proven to be affected by passive smoke are those living with a regular smoker. Forcing me to drag my non-smoking friends to an area of concentrated smokers is probably far worse for them.

But more than this, the restrictions demonstrate an underlying judgement made by the University Senate about smokers: “You, Smoker, are a weak and foolish person. Fear not, however, for we are here to help.” It is an unfair and condescending judgment that is neither helpful nor conducive to making people quit. Smokers don’t need to be told that what they’re doing is bad for them. They know, and they choose to do it anyway. Nor is telling them they can’t smoke around campus going to stop them, primarily because, unless the University is planning on deploying smoking police to patrol the campus, it’s not going to work. Enforcement would be costly, and people already smoke on Barnard’s campus when they aren’t supposed to, for crying out loud. If you’re genuinely going to stop me smoking on my way to class, all that’s going to happen is I’m going to be late.

The minute a “No Secondhand Smoke” campaign comes up with convincing evidence that secondhand smoke is a significant cause of death, I will eat my hat. I will spin on a dime and agree that limitations on smoking are in the interests of the whole community. But in the meantime, I would appreciate not being judged. I would appreciate for the University not to impinge upon freedoms. I would appreciate for the smokers’ community, a minority as worthy as any other, to have its rights protected. It is not the University’s role to preach morality, or health, or lifestyle, when it does not affect anyone but the perpetrator.

I would like to make it clear that I am not trying to put the smoker on a pedestal. It’s a terrible habit, and I have huge respect for those who stay away from it and nothing but sympathy for those who have suffered as a result. But before you judge the next smoker you see, remind yourself that you don’t know his or her background. Attempting to limit smoking is no less an arbitrary assertion of power than stopping fatties from getting seconds. Columbia is a place where each individual should be allowed to make his or her own choices, whether or not President Bollinger approves, and these restrictions are but the first step down the slippery slope to total control of students’ personal lives.

A round of applause, a glass raised, to Columbia then. To hypocrisy, to unfair assumptions, and to screwing minorities. Cheers.

The author is a Columbia College first-year with a prospective major in history.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Anonymous posted on

Yup, sure, keep telling yourself that passive smoke doesn't harm others. Laugh about puffing on your cancer sticks, while my dad has throat cancer from smoking. Stupid.

+1
+32
-1
Anonymous posted on

Studies have repeatedly shown that the body can naturally metabolize the carcinogens of up to 3-5 cigarettes per day. Moderate smoking poses limited health risks. People who smoke a pack a day over long periods of time are the ones in trouble.

+1
-20
-1
yeah... posted on

you're definitely wrong about that one.

http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/14/5/315.long

+1
+3
-1
Anonymous posted on

what does your dad, an active smoker, have to do with passive smoking?

+1
+12
-1
Anonymous posted on

Whilst I feel very sorry for your dad, and your whole family, he has throat cancer from actively smoking. I doubt that my smoking as I walk to class will cause a mild cough in any student, let alone throat cancer. Two very separate issues

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/12/05/jnci.djt365.full

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

Charlotte, I think it's time to eat your hat.

Stats from cancer.org:

Secondhand smoke (SHS) can cause harm in many ways. Each year in the United States alone, it’s responsible for:

*An estimated 42,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are current non-smokers
*About 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults
*Worse asthma and asthma-related problems in up to 1 million asthmatic children
*Between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (lung and bronchus) in children under 18 months of age, with 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year
*Making children much more likely to be put into intensive care when they have the flu; they stay in the hospital longer, and they’re more likely to need breathing tubes than kids who aren’t exposed to SHS

In the United States, the costs of extra medical care, illness, and death caused by SHS are over $10 billion per year

+1
+24
-1
Anonymous posted on

and how many of those do we think live with smokers? 95%? 99?

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Ok google, how many people die from traffic accidents?
..
Damn! Ban cars and car drivers!

+1
-5
-1
Anonymous posted on

Watch where you're smokin' near that strawman

+1
+14
-1
Anonymous posted on

They serve fries and unhealthy foods at the dining halls because they are perfectly fine to eat in moderation. They are also balanced with a number of other healthy options. However, you can't exactly say the same thing about cigarettes in moderation. Your lungs aren't exactly designed to inhale substances other than air, while your body is able to process all different kinds of foods – healthy or not – especially when the unhealthy foods aren't eaten super regularly.

+1
+11
-1
Freshman +10 pounds posted on

The problem is that the only dining option available after 8pm on campus is JJs, which is a concentration of putrid fumes from GMO meat, fat curly fries, and disgusting fried chicken. Since I have class 3 days out of 4 until 8pm, that is where the university forces me to eat. That is indeed a bigger problem than walking in front of Butler where people smoke, because being in the open air, the smoke cannot affect anyone else other than the smoker himself.

STOP FATTENING FOOD AND PISS OFF THE SMOKERS

+1
+3
-1
Actually... posted on

Barnard's Hewitt is open from 8pm-11pm every weekday. They have a lot of healthy options. Like, a lot. The university isn't forcing you to do anything, you're just not bothering to look into what there is available.

+1
+4
-1
wow posted on

Did you really claim minority status because you smoke? Non-smokers may outnumber smokers, but this is not an issue of discrimination. If not being able to smoke on-campus is making you late for class, leave early so you have time for a cigarette outside the gates. God forbid you be somewhat inconvenienced.

+1
+52
-1
Anonymous posted on

Of course, it is easier for a smoker to go outside the gates than it is for you to walk anywhere outside a 1m radius circle around the smoker. Right?

Dat logic..

+1
-6
-1
Anonymous posted on

"I would appreciate for the smokers’ community, a minority as worthy as any other..."

HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

+1
+53
-1
This just goes way too far posted on

"A round of applause, a glass raised, to Columbia then. To hypocrisy, to unfair assumptions, and to screwing minorities. Cheers."

+1
+14
-1
Anonymous posted on

The difference between "smokers" and "fatties" is that the latter on this campus only inconvenience themselves with their vice. Smokers subject the rest of the campus community to inhaling the putrid refuse of their increasingly blackened lungs. Why should I have to walk behind your disgusting cloud on my way to class just so that you aren't late? Give me a break.

+1
+14
-1
Anonymous posted on

I disagree. Your obesity inconveniences my eyes, and the putrid refuse from your armpits makes me want to bury myself in the columbia tunnel system.

+1
-22
-1
Anonymous posted on

So why should I have to walk to class behind your disgusting ass?

+1
-14
-1
Anonymous posted on

You are right! Stepping slightly sideways is such a hassle..

+1
-10
-1
Anonymous posted on

Cigarette smoke is one of the major triggers for those with asthma. Every time my friends and I have to walk past the pack of smokers in front of Butler, it's a struggle to breathe. Sometimes I can't breathe between the coughs, my friends joke and tell me to "not die" but really, for someone with asthma, it's not a joke. So you will be inconvenienced, what about mine? I do my best to avoid Butler as much as possible because I want to avoid you and other smokers. I'm taking a longer path for no other reason than I want to breathe. Please don't regard your vice for cigarettes as a badge of honor, something to be commended for, when it's the reason I have to struggle for air during the rare moments I have no choice but to go to Butler (at times, it is unavoidable).

Being an addict does not excuse you, you made a decision (influenced by friends, but no one held a gun to your head and told you to smoke), but I NEVER made a decision to get asthma, to have cigarette smoke as a trigger, to start coughing uncontrollably when I breathe in cigarette smoke, to not be able to breathe for terrifying moments.

+1
+38
-1
Anonymous posted on

I don't know what is wrong with your particular type of asthma but you should look into it. I have three asthmatic friends who smoke regularly, and they are pretty serious cases. It is, of course, very bad for them but none of them struggles to breathe (especially from the slight "cloud" in the open air).

+1
-15
-1
Fellow butlerian posted on

Thank you Charlotte for this great op-ed. I find that you have perfectly achieved two things here.
First, you have ironically shown that the "minority" bullshit that is fed to us in Columbia on a daily basis (Mexican party wtf?) is exactly that - bullshit.
Second, you have persuaded Columbia and Americans in general to take a chill pill. "Binge drinking and filling your body with fattening food and beer to feel like shit the next day is fine, but if one enjoys smoking, that is bad." - cut the crap, New York.

+1
-9
-1
Umm posted on

I think your assertion that Charlotte has "persuaded" anyone might be a tad strongly worded.

+1
+8
-1
Anonymous posted on

"Columbia is a place where each individual should be allowed to make his or her own choices"
Let's all drink gasoline and inject ourselves with elephant shit ...

+1
-5
-1
Anonymous posted on

Offensive on so many levels to people who have health issues preventing them from losing weight, minorities actually facing discrimination, and people whose health does actually suffer from secondhand smoke (asthma?).

+1
+25
-1
Margaux posted on

Amazing! Very well said!

+1
-18
-1
Anonymous posted on

Quite true! "yet I don’t see the University trying to stop dining halls from serving heart attacks with a side of fries on a daily basis."

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

The main problem with smokers is their lack of consideration in realizing how bad they smell. This winter was particularly difficult because snow made narrow sidewalks and there was no way to walk around the smoke. You can bash pot smokers and hamburger eaters all that you want. But, those folks don't annoy me on a daily basis as you do. The Columbia ban is going into effect weather you like it or not. You were born into the wrong time honey-child. Get into a time machine and hitch a ride back to the 50's 60's 70's and 80's. Or move to Russia. Anything still goes in that country. - A Columbia Public Safety Officer.

+1
+13
-1
Anonymous posted on

I'm a smoker, and I suppose I would somewhat support the ban because it would help me quit... I'm not stupid for smoking. I was just influenced at a very young age to do so, and we all choose our poisons. I'm sorry mine affects you, truly, but many of you drink (another poison) and excessively and that affects me-- the noise, the laughter from drunk girls, the cat calls from drunk boys... and worse sexual advances I've been victim to.

+1
+15
-1
Arsene Wenger /Fuck_Flamini/ edition posted on

I tried to buy Berbatov in January with several bricks of Malboro Lights. He refused. I have hated smokers since.

+1
+4
-1
Jose Mourinho posted on

I caught JT, C-ashley and Lamps round the back of the parking lot sneaking a cheeky ciggie, v.upset. Defo need the ban

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Well argued. But you threaten to undermine your entire case by demeaning the habits of everyone else, and especially by bullying the "fatties." Seriously? If you weren't "physically fit," would you want to be judged for being heavy? I say this as a fit person myself, but how hypocritical--you don't want to be judged for smoking (I also smoke and understand this), but you judge heavy people for their eating habits, even if you think they shouldn't be curtailed. And for that matter, the tone with which you describe other vices is surprisingly condescending (a "watery excuse for beer", etc.).

Ultimately, then, you aren't putting smokers on a pedestal, you are putting yourself on a pedestal. "I don't want to be judged for my habits, and no vices should be curtailed, but I'm going to judge YOU for your habits."

+1
+7
-1
Charlotte Lepic posted on

You are completely right. My intention was not to demean other vices, although I appreciate that it came across like that. The reason my tone was so scathing was not to judge other people's faults, but more to try to show people that the comparison between smoking and other vices is not invalid, which I should have made clear. I'm glad that you agree (I think) with the fact that that smokers should not be judged. But it was also very much my intention to put smoking cigarettes on precisely the same level as smoking weed or eating habits or alcohol consumption. None of these is commendable. But people have their own reasons for undertaking them, and they should be allowed to do so, without judgement from myself or others.

I personally feel that obesity has negative externalities in the same way that smoking does, and from the comments, I gather that some people agree. If you are reading this, I want you to think for a second: what would your reaction be if you found out that Columbia was imposing restrictions on how much food those with a BMI of over 30 could eat? You would be outraged, I hope. Why, then, is smoking any different?

Some people have mentioned that people have diseases or genetic predispositions to weight gain. This is actually something on which I did some research a couple of years back. It became blindingly clear to anyone who undertook the same project that yes, it is possible to be genetically predisposed to easier weight gain - but that in order to become obese, one still needs to overeat. It is also possible to be genetically predisposed to addiction, I might add. I am not blaming the addiction of smokers on genes; that would be absurd. I seek merely to demonstrate that smoking and obesity are not so different, and as such, should not be treated so differently.

+1
+6
-1
Better! posted on

Thanks for the clarification. I think the last two paragraphs of your comment are actually a more convincing version of your op-ed. As someone who smokes all over campus, I was not offended by your comparison to other vices so much as I was worried that some of the off-putting tones and whatnot would keep other readers from judging the argument on its objective terms, essentially hurting the "cause" of Columbia smokers.

+1
+7
-1
Anonymous posted on

Charlotte, I do not judge you for smoking. I do judge you for making apples and oranges comparisons and for self-servingly disregarding medical facts. Please do at least a casual review of medical studies on the effect of cigarette smoke before you defend or peddle this crap "logic" again.

+1
-4
-1
Anonymous posted on

Let's be real, smoking cigarettes is a choice, and it is unhealthy, and it physically affects bystanders - I personally get really bad headaches when I smell cigarette smoke. Now let's think about overweight people - some of them have underlying medical conditions that make it difficult to lose weight - such as thyroid problems. I understand that it is quite a European thing to smoke cigarettes and that it is much more accepted abroad and perhaps the pressures to start smoking were higher, but that doesn't mean that everyone else should be susceptible to it. For example, it is illegal to drink alcohol in public (open container laws). These bans are put in place so that bystanders are not affected by substances they are not choosing to partake in for whatever reason. Additionally, smoking outside of Butler while I understand that perhaps you're taking a stress induced drag as a study break, engulfing an academic establishment with carcinogenic chemicals seems quite unfair to those around you. Have some respect for your fellow students and understand that unfortunately you need to take your habit elsewhere. Living in an environment with people with different wants and needs is obviously a hard task at times, but to coexist we must respect each other's space in an effort to make our coexistence as peaceful and healthy as possible. Seriously though, the headaches are not cool and I know I'm just one individual but they do make my day harder sometimes. Also, I know you have the right to make your own choices, but my dad suffers greatly from smoking for decades and it saddens me that this could be your fate.

+1
0
-1
Anthony posted on

Next up on the Columbia Spectator: Phillip Morris' wet dream! Who needs science when you have under-informed 20-year-old libertarian opinion!?

+1
+1
-1
Columbia Alum posted on

This article is a disgrace. You're honestly trying to compare fatty foods to cigs? Just one problem: fatty foods have another purpose aside from killing you. Eating two sausages at breakfast can sustain your life - NOTHING about a cig is beneficial in any way. You're comparing cig smokers to persecuted minorities? I smoke cigarettes myself, and I found this entire article to be a disgrace to any half-formed opinion ever printed

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

“If you’re fat, you’re ugly”? Why not? Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in New York."
-because some people are obese because of genetic health problems out of their control?
Furthermore, being a little chubby doesn't make one ugly in my view. It means that one enjoys life.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

Who said anything about chubby?! She's talking about obesity not 'being a little chubby', totally different. Plus health problems cause obesity in like one in a million cases. The rest of the time, obesity causes health problems.

+1
+1
-1