Ban the Butts

Liana Teixeira

Exactly 20 feet from the Charger Plaza on Campbell Avenue, it’s hard to miss the dozens of cigarette butts littering the sidewalk on your way out of the parking lot. Walking up the stairs near Bethel Hall is another familiar sight: several freshmen smoking cigarettes in between classes, crowded around an ash receptacle.

Smoking on college campuses is nothing new; in fact, it has become an increasing epidemic amongst college-aged students, some of whom begin as early as high school. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, one third (33 percent) of college students currently use tobacco products—chewing tobacco, cigars and cigarettes to name a few. This is a jump from 1993 and 1997 where only 22 and 28 percent of students smoked cigarettes, respectively.

Additionally, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed about 88 percent of adult smokers who smoke daily said they started smoking by the age 18.

Due to this growing trend and the illnesses associated with smoking, smoking bans are becoming common throughout college campuses nationwide. A July 2013 report by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation listed 1,178 schools that have adopted a 100 percent smoke-free policy.

The University of New Haven has yet to make the list.

While smoking is not allowed in residence or academic halls, designated smoking areas are still prominently available on campus, a minimum of 20 feet from buildings. This is done to “allow everyone to enter our buildings without breathing unwanted smoke,” reads the official smoke-free policy of the university.

But are we truly keeping our students safe and healthy by allowing even limited smoking areas to exist?

Although there are clear signs reminding smokers to inhale their cigarette smoke a safe distance away from non-smokers, it simply isn’t enough.

It’s time for UNH to kick the habit completely.

Picture this. You’re walking to a residence hall or the library, when you realize you must pass by a group of students smoking in order to reach the door. Sure, you can try holding your breath for 10 seconds, but the toxic, musty odor itself is enough to get you coughing.

Many ash receptacles are placed along paths with heavy foot traffic. However, wind speed and direction prevent smoke from being contained to a single space. Locations like the library and Bethel Hall require you to literally walk by the designated smoking area to get to the entrances.

Despite one’s best efforts to evade the fumes, it is simply unavoidable. Smokers who disregard this policy furthermore endanger other students around them.

Sophomore Victoria Johnson lived in Bethel Hall as a freshman, and found the smokers outside her building to be a nuisance.

“I couldn’t leave my windows open because my room was right by the stairs up to the parking lot, and people would smoke there all the time,” she said. “I wish they weren’t so messy or disrespectful about it…I’ve had quite a few people blow smoke in my face, and I always see cigarette butts on the ground.”

Secondhand smoke remains a constant threat to non-smokers. There are countless diseases associated with inhaling smoke, multiple forms of cancer, heart disease and asthma being the most common. Cigarette companies clearly display these warnings on the boxes. Even with these obvious dangers, however, we have failed to realize the long-term implications of allowing a smoke-friendly campus.

Smoking is undeniably one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes one of every five deaths in the country each year, a total of 440,000 deaths annually. Of these 440,000, approximately 50,000 are caused by secondhand smoke.

We ban the use of things like recreational drugs because they can lead to addiction and death, yet the deadliest substance lies right under our noses, and we’re doing nothing about it.

Cigarettes aren’t like the occasional glass of wine or dessert that, if consumed in moderation, won’t make a harmful impact on your body. Rather, the minute smoke (secondhand or otherwise) enters your lungs, you are immediately exposed to dozens of chemical toxins and cancer-causing agents.

Is allowing designated smoke areas really worth putting students’ lives at risk? Senior Justin Bussell doesn’t think so.

Bussell is completely against smoking on campus. “Not only do I think that it is a huge waste of money, it’s a completely avoidable health risk. And them being littered everywhere is unsightly as well,” he said.

By allowing such behavior to continue on our campus, we are only fueling the fire.

In recent years, the university has made great strides in promoting sustainability, green living, and fresh food products for its students. Why stop there?

Adopting a 100 percent smoke-free policy at the university is the next logical step in improving the quality of living for all students, and providing them with a healthier campus community.