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Columns January 25, 2012 //  by  // 5 Comments

Sidewalk smoking

When a chronic smoker decides it’s time to smoke, he or she is going to smoke.

There’s nothing scientific about this. There are no formulas, extraneous variables or misleading statistics. Whole countries make their living off of this, and they’ve yet to be ostrisized.

The drive to smoke depends on the individual.

The fact that Alvin succumbs to the weight of his social conscious on a regular basis bears no relation to whether or not Janine will follow suit. She may choose to set up shop on a stoop by the library, or on a bench before a meal. The lighter might be in motion before she’s even left the building.

It’s a social anomaly, and one that’s significantly amplified on the campus of a university. One might think that common consideration for our neighbors — an inclination instilled in us from childhood, hardened by television, the internet and popular radio — would be strong enough to repel Nicotine, but one would be wrong.

So although the University’s Student Government Association acted with the best intentions in mind with the passage of this month’s smoking bill, it’s the smoker’s addiction that’s going to render it ineffective. The bill isn’t intended to “outlaw smoking on campus,” but to “make the environment healthier for non-smoking students.”

Implementing a distance of 25 feet between smokers and the buildings they inhabit would be an ample solution for say, a home for the elderly, or any environment where the locals would be daunted by slight alterations in distance. This obviously isn’t applicable for a college campus.

It’s one thing to dismantle an issue, stripping it of all the variables that make it possible, but it’s completely different to kick it a couple of yards further down the road.

Discontinuing cigarette sales on campus would be a solution.  Regulating public smoking to particular hours would follow the same course. This is not a solution so much as a shift.

But let’s pretend that this bill is actually followed by UH students. Even if their hearts are in the right place, smokers are now just 10 paces further from Cullen than they would have been several weeks ago.

Depending on the location and the time of the day, a smoker may find himself even deeper within a crowd of nonsmoking students.

This isn’t to say that it wasn’t a good idea. Smoking will continue to be a health hazard. It’s not glamorous like the movies would like you to believe, and very few people look good doing it.

It is well within the interests of both the University and its student organizations to attack it as an obstacle head on. But if there’s going to be any leeway made, it’ll have to be approached with every tool at the table — as opposed to an early semester and ineffective trust.

Nicotine is loud. If the SGA hopes to garner any leeway out of this premise, it’s going to have to speak a little louder.

Bryan Washington is a sociology freshman and may be reached at opinion@thedailycougar.com.

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  • Jared

    As a smoker, I have no problem with staying 25 feet away from any doorway when I smoke. I always try to smoke in areas away from other people. I've been trying to quit for several months now, and it is not easy. But nonsmokers also need to realize that you are not going to get cancer just from walking by a smoker and catching a whiff of smoke for half a second. We all breathe in far, far more carcinogens every day from car and bus exhaust on campus, not to mention the many petrochemical refineries that surround Houston. This area of Texas is known as the "cancer belt" and not because of cigarettes. So to all the nonsmokers, please drop the holier-than-though routine. If your concern is cancer, and you are serious about making a difference, then maybe we should think about trying to drive less and cut down on traffic, or make our refineries more environmentally sound. That would have a much bigger impact. In the mean time, please be patient with the smokers. I started smoking before cigarettes became so stigmatized, and quitting is a difficult, uphill journey.

    • James J

      The problem most non smokers have with cigarette smoke is the smell. To a non smoker the smell of cigarettes is terrible and it leaves a smell on your clothes that's hard to get rid of and makes other people think you're a smoker.

    • Mike Wazowski

      >also need to realize that you are not going to get cancer just from walking by a smoker and catching a whiff of smoke for half a second

      No, but I have allergically triggered asthma. Walking through your toxic cloud causes my bronchioles to spasma, and my lungs to begin to fill with fluid. This stays with me for several days. Imagine what it's like to, through no fault of your own or natural cause, have difficulty breathing. To actually have to concentrate to make sure your body is getting enough oxygen. To have to pause while walking up a flight of stairs or you begin choking.

      This is the life I live, because you can't control your habit.

      • N/A

        I have asthma also, I just remember to take my emergency inhaler with me everywhere I go, one in my purse, one in my backpack, I have them everywhere, so don't blame smokers for you not being in control of your own health issues, be responsible and take the medication that helps you deal with these sort of things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.jansen1 Brian Jansen

    i think the worst aspect of having smokers all over the place, breathing their fumes into our noses, is the temptation that the smoke causes for us ex-smokers. it's hard enough fighting the urge when you see it on tv, etc. but having to smell that sweet poison, much less follow trails of it for 100s of feet because you're trailing a mobile smoker, is too much.

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