Guest Commentary

Students should give cigarettes the butt

Suddenly your lungs have been blackened as your immune system tries to expel the toxins, forcing you to cough. You failed to notice that fellow Cougar in front of you holding a cigarette. Better luck next time.

The US Surgeon General, the nation’s leading spokesperson on public health, has continuously reported that there is absolutely no level of safe exposure to secondhand smoke.

It has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer — a branch of the World Health Organization.

Secondhand smoke contains a minimum of 172 toxic substances, including three regulated outdoor air pollutants, 33 hazardous air pollutants, 47 chemicals restricted as hazardous waste and 67 known carcinogens.

Every day we make an effort to limit our exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays by wearing protective clothing and sun block. When we have our X-rays taken, we wear lead jackets to prevent the radiation from permeating our bodies. Numerous workers have sued companies for exposing them to asbestos which resulted in a plethora of health problems not limited to cancer.

If we express such ardent concern when our health is threatened in these situations, then why don’t we make the same effort to protect ourselves from carcinogenic secondhand smoke?

Oddly, the large majority of nonsmokers feel as if smokers posses the unalienable right to smoke wherever they wish, regardless of the fact they are indirectly jeopardizing the health of their fellow students, faculty and staff.

Every time someone inhales the toxic substances inside cigarettes that consist of, but are not limited to, rat poison, pesticides and carbon monoxide, their heart suffers immediate harmful effects and their risk of lung cancer increases.

The UH smoking policy which prohibits smoking within a 25-foot radius of any building entrance has proven impractical and ineffective.

Are police expected to patrol the premises with measuring tape to discover those who may have forgotten that they were standing too closely to the building?

Aren’t ashtrays conveniently located just five feet from the entrances of buildings?

Many Coogs, willing to submit themselves to hazardous consequences, have suggested designated smoking areas on campus. This resolution will only concentrate the toxic substances, and the US Surgeon General has reiterated countless times that there is no level of exposure to secondhand smoke that is safe.

Let’s be realistic. Laws limiting smoking will never effectively address this issue as would completely eliminating it.

Furthermore, making UH a smoke-free campus will assist UH students who are battling nicotine addictions and inevitably improve their health.

It would also decrease the amount of toxins their loved ones are exposed to. Exposure to some of the toxins can cause ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma in children.

Another benefit is that smokers would save thousands of dollars that could be put toward tuition and fees.

Furthermore, by making UH a smoke-free campus we would be advancing the GreenUH agenda.

Let’s do this the easy way and make UH smoke-free. It’s time that we exercise our right to life.

If UH wishes to maintain its Tier One status, it must join the other 500 universities in our nation that are entirely smoke-free.

By making our campus smoke-free we can prove that at UH we genuinely care about the well-being of our students, faculty and staff.

Josie Ceasar is a biology sophomore and a NSM Senator for the UH Student Government. Association.


  • There is one that we can all agree on: smoking is bad. However, it is less likely that a majority of students at our university would back an effort of SGA to legislate what students can and cannot do to their bodies. If we are to ban smoking because it is bad, why don't we shut down the Den and ban students (even if they are 21) from possessing alcohol on campus? Alcohol is terrible for the heart and liver, so we should protect our students from making the wrong choices, right? Our students are legal adults who should be responsible for their own life choices, and while I think that nobody should smoke, I do not think that smoking should be outright banned on campus. Too many of our students would have a HUGE problem if this were to happen, not to mention that our police and security resources would be stretched even thinner if they were to become the "smoking police." If this is a debate about increasing the value of our degrees and fulfilling the TIER One Experience at UH, then we should focus on tackling bigger issues such as restoring academic honesty by addressing the staggering amount of students that use illegal prescription drugs to ace an exam. While I truly appreciate the concerns advocates of this cause present, I have to respectfully disagree with their efforts to impose their views on the rest of the student body.

  • Great commentary, Josie.

    On Nov. 19, the University of Kentucky, "the tobacco state's" flagship public institution, launched a campuswide smoking ban. And as you stated above, hundreds of other universities have done the same.

    UH Senator and UCPB Chairman Jared Gogets is in agreement with your views, and also feels strongly that this issue is definitely something we need to look into here at the University of Houston. As Chairman of the University Center Policy Board, Senator Gogets maintains and enforces a smoking ban in the University Centers he oversees and has recieved positve feedback from students since passing the ban 2 years ago.

    Good luck to you!

    • Ally,

      The smoking ban at the University of Kentucky took place on November 19, 2009, not this previous Novemeber as you insinuated. I graduated from UK in December 2009 and there was no entity on campus that was policing people smoking on campus. It is great idea in theory, but not a very practical one.

  • Jared Gogets in 2009 speaking about the smoking ban in the University Center passed by the University Center Policy Board >>>

    "Our goal here is not to force students to 'do the right thing' or force them to give up smoking entirely. Our students and patrons that smoke most certainly have rights to smoke elsewhere (outside of the University Center). We want to reduce the amount of second-hand smoke that everyone else in our building is exposed to, and would not have passed a smoking ban without support from our students and patrons."

  • It's about time! It shouldn't be taboo to tell people not to blow carcinogens into the air that I breathe. And UH should protect rights of students/faculty to breathe clean air.

    Last year, I conducted a straw poll of what students thought about the smoking policy at UH. We surveyed 2,058 students. 33.3% of students expressed support for a smoke-free campus. 43.3% expressed support for designated smoking areas away from major pathways and buildings. Combined, 79.6% of those students certainly did not want people smoking around them. While this was not a scientific survey, there are strong implications that the majority of UH students will support a smoking ban.

  • This is very similar to all the "no smoking in bars/restaurants/clubs/airports/ect." laws that have been passes by cities, counties, and states. The fact is the laws are loosely applied because the police have better things to worry about than "Is that guy finding a new way to relax after a long day that's causing physical harm to his body? We need to arrest him for that!" Their focus needs to be on the people committing real crimes and causing immediate harm to others. As a person who is allergic to tobacco smoke I'm not against banning it indoors, or away from doors, but I am against banning someone's right to enjoy themselves, if only for a minute, after a rough day. Secondly, as a consenting adult I do other things that are legal and fun but not necessarily great for my body, if we're going to outlaw one thing that's dangerous or risky why not outlaw them all, that means no more fast food, unprotected sex, or maybe sex altogether, driving cars, drinking alcohol, drinking soft drinks. . . the list goes on, and the amazing thing is most of these can also apply to the "dangerous to others" stigma that smoking has. A no smoking law on UH campus would be a discriminatory act against a sector of the population, and there are too many of those at the University, in Texas, and in America already, we don't need another one.

  • Leave the smokers alone. It wasn't enough that you kicked them out of bars and restaurants, now you want to make it illegal everywhere.

    If you don't like the smoke, go somewhere else.

  • Why does Jared Gogets have to have people speak for him? Maybe we should leave it up to him and not his "political consultant" to address the issues. That is nothing but campaign rhetoric on this page, and if a senator feels strongly about an issue, he should address it himself. I like Jared, he's a great guy, but he really does not need anybody to use his name for him.

      • Let me rephrase: Why are people speaking on behalf of another students on this page? This girl does not even go to UH. I just feel that it is inappropriate for people to be turning this feed into a political advertisement as it distracts us from the real issues at hand. My brother is an SGA senator, but it would still be inappropriate for me to say "Cameron McHugh supports (or opposes)…."

  • The above poll states that only 1 out of 3 students support the ban this editorial is pushing for. That is far from a majority, which is why I oppose this proposed legislation. If we wanted to be practical, we would address the concerns of the 43% of students who support designated smoking areas away from pathways and meet somewhere in the middle instead of supporting an outright ban on smoking. That will be more appealing to everybody and is a win-win situation.

  • I agree–leave the smokers alone.

    If you want to complain about the air quality around you why not complain to the local chemical plants who pollute the same air you and I breathe daily? The air here in Houston is horrible.

    Smokers were told to move their ashtrays outside; check. They were banned from smoking on the plane, in the restaurant, in the theater, in the bars and elsewhere across America!! Now, you want a smoke free campus? Please–save it. Why not pick on the fast food restaurants at the UC where everyday, people are buying grease burgers with fries? How about that processed food you just bought at the UC store? Yummy!! YOU are putting it in your stomach where later on in YOUR life will have dire effects from it. Yet you don't see those smokers telling you or UH to remove them because of the ill effects they cause; oh no—and you probably won't.

    I understand the dangers of second hand smoke but indicating that the smokers "smoke" pollutes the air is absurd! The air is already polluted

    There are toxins in the air you and I breathe daily!


  • This is rediculas! How as a campus can you "outlaw" smoking? If this bill is passed in the SGA we might as well out law vehicles with sound systems, because they damage hearing, or better yet outlaw dessert in the cafeteria becausse it could cause weight gain. As a smoker, I follow the "smokers rule" which is if I have lit my cigarette and you (the non smoker) walk to me or my general location, and ask me to move I will not, but if you are there first and then I light up, I will move. Smoking is a personal choice, just like dipping and chewing tobacco, but no one ever complains about the the latter two..

    • What's "rediculas" is that you are supposedly a college student who can't even spell. Go back to the trailer park and smoke there.

  • Might as well legalize marijuana asap. Sell it on campus, make sure smokers get freebies to switch, everyone breathes marijuana smoke, everyone is happy. Win-win-win!

  • It's great to see so many Coogs trumpeting their support for individual liberties. Indeed, it's difficult to determine when public health takes priority over public opinion. I encourage you all to educate yourselves on smoking on college campuses, the health risks involved in both smoking and second-hand smoke, and public opinion/trends on this issue outside of our campus. It's good practice to be well-informed.

    Here are some articles that might be of interest:

    The goal of a smoke-free or tobacco-free campus is not to take away the rights of smokers or the rights of students to choose to smoke. The goal is to protect everyone else's right to clean air. Smokers can still smoke at home, before and after they arrive on campus, and if necessary, they can walk to the parking lots or outskirts of campus to smoke. Their rights are preserved while everyone is protected from second-hand smoke while they are at school.

    This is also an environmental issue. All of those cigarette butts you see on campus grounds are made of non-biodegradable plastic and can take from eighteen months to over ten years to break down and will release harmful chemicals into the ground. They are unsightly and harm the environment. A smoking ban would alleviate the stress put on our environment and save time for the workers that keep our campus clean. UH, with its new Tier One status, should be a leader in going green.

    One in five deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to tobacco, directly and indirectly. It would be great if UH was an advocate for change and lead the way to a healthier future as well. Learn and lead, that's what being a Cougar is about, right?

    • Unfortunately this will not protect anybody's right to clean air. We already live in Houston, one of the most polluted cities in America. What good does it do to prohibit cigarette smoke when we live only a few miles from dangerous chemical factories?

  • Let's ban gum too. It has possible carcinogens, is a cavity inducer(unless you're chewing sugar-free), and the saliva it's paired with can be a carrier for all sorts of detrimental viruses and bacteria. Though mostly, I'm just tired of sitting at desks and accidentally touching the chewy infiltrator after some heathen has stuck it to the underside.

    Seriously though, I think there's more potential danger of being assaulted by edgy smokers craving nicotine than of developing 2nd hand lung cancer from the handful of times you encounter smokers. Additionally, I can think of several professors who would be none too pleased at being forced to leave the campus for a 2 minute reprieve between their classes. Besides, think of all the Nicorette we'd have to wade through just to find an unbesmirched seat! Now that is truly frightening.

    And no, I don't smoke.

  • "I think there's more potential danger of being assaulted by edgy smokers craving nicotine than of developing 2nd hand lung cancer from the handful of times you encounter smokers."

    What are you basing your opinion on? An estimated 49,400 lung cancer and heart disease deaths annually are attributable to exposure to secondhand smoke (taken from… . Can anyone tell us the number of annual assaults "by edgy smokers craving nicotine" and cite a credible source?

    Let's stick to the facts derived from decades of research on smoking/second-hand smoke and consider those when forming opinions on policies. Since 1964, 29 Surgeon General's reports have documented the overwhelming health consequences of exposure to tobacco and tobacco smoke.

    Backtracking a little to the issue of public opinion vs. public health, policies and laws should not solely be a reflection of public support. Sometimes, laws can and should be used to shape a better future, regardless of whether or not the majority of the public agrees (think Civil Rights). A Tier One university such as UH should be forward-thinking and doing the most it can to provide a healthy environment for everyone.

  • People with parasitic tendencies always need to be sucking on something; that it kills them is sort of the whole point.

    So I don't necessarily mind since it helps identify who has something to offer the world and who's just bleeding it try.

  • This whole "In order to achieve/maintain Tier One Status, UH needs to do (thing I'm advocating)" argument is tired and ridiculous. Want to keep our school the awesome place it is? Focus on academics & academic honesty. This is starting to remind me of Argumentum ad Hitlerum, and it's really old. Please stop, people–it's a bad argument.

    • Then leave Tier One out of it. Tier One or not, an institution of higher education should be forward-thinking and doing the most it can to provide a healthy environment for everyone on its campus.

  • This whole "In order to achieve/maintain Tier One Status, UH needs to do (thing I'm advocating)" argument is tired and ridiculous. Want to keep our school the awesome place it is? Focus on academics & academic honesty. This is starting to remind me of Argumentum ad Hitlerum, and it's really old. Please stop, people–it's a bad argument.


    Sec . 21-241 . Reasonable distance.
    Smoking is prohibited within 25 feet outside entrances, exits, or
    wheelchair ramps serving any entrance or exit, operable windows, and
    ventilation systems of enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited, so as to
    ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter those areas . This section shall
    not apply to restaurant and bar outdoor seating areas .

    The problem is, smokers are a bunch of disrespectful jerks who won't even follow the law on campus, which means when I'm trying to get to class I have to march through the miasma these jerks are puffing out.

    Time's up. Enough is enough. Just ban smoking from campus already!

    • Neither do most UH smokers…

      Smoking's not a right. If you persist in anti-social behavior you get your privileges taken away. Seems reasonable, unless you were raised to believe that you're the center of the world.

  • It seems that many people are missing the point behind the article. It’s not a question of smokers’ rights. Smokers will still be able to smoke just away from the campus. The idea is that your rights come into question once it begins to affect the rights of others. Smoking exposes people to second hand smoke and therefore all the carcinogens in smoke, which in turn adversely affect people's health. How can you stand to defend the rights of smokers when they are in fact hurting your right to life? And in case you didn't know life is one of the unalienable rights listed in the constitution smoking is not.

  • I know this may amaze some of you, but I've used this method for years and it's worked so well: I don't walk within a few feet of people who are obviously/actively exhaling smoke in my direction and breath while facing them. Since, you know, this is outdoors and we don't have to actively hotbox their smoke because we choose not to live in the same room with them, myself and many other non-smokers find this to be a very effective method, however outlandish it may seem.

    "Exposure to some of the toxins can cause ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma in children."

    Yessss thank god someone is trying to protect all the 9 year-olds who attend class at UH. And even if they did, those studies are conducted regarding long-term exposure to second hand smoke, such as children who are present in cars and homes with parents who smoke, NOT because they live in a neighborhood where people smoke outdoors and they occasionally pass by them, so what is the relevance to this particular situation exactly? I agree that ash trays should be placed farther from buildings and that rules should be enforced; that being said, there's a very obvious flaw in the argument of people who say it should be done away with because it's unenforced: if the 25-foot-from-building smoking rules can't be enforced, than what reason to we have to believe that an outright ban can be enforced?

    • As a non-smoker, I try to stay away from people who are actively smoking as well. But how do you do that when you have to walk out of the library into a literal haze of smoke? Or when there are 3 people blowing smoke behind them as they walk on by, irresponsibly and irrespective of anybody else but themselves?

  • 'if the 25-foot-from-building smoking rules can't be enforced, than what reason to we have to believe that an outright ban can be enforced?"

    Irrespective of how you or I feel about the issue, are you really unable to come up with an answer to that question?

  • Well, we better ban outdoor smoking everywhere because all smoke is second hand smoke? Oh, ban grilling (no more hamburgers) too. That smoke from the coal is extra dangerous! Oh, ban the camp fires too (no more smores), that exposes children to excessive levels of carcinogens. Oh can we ban the sun too? It causes wildfires and the smoke is just unimaginably gross.

    Please get over yourself. If you sniff cigarette smoke a few times in your life, you won't die an early, painful death. Let people live their lives.

  • Jesus, half of you are acting like UH is sitting underneath a giant cigarette cloud of doom that EVERYONE has to breathe. Are you kidding me? I notice more non-smokers on campus than I do smokers. So please, quit with the dramatic over exaggeration. Do you people notice where we live? The pollution we breathe in everyday is atrocious. The small amount of secondhand smoke you breathe in from walking past a smoker is minuscule compared to the amount of pollutants you inhale when outside in Houston. I'll give a smoker his or her right to smoke where they wish on campus, just like it's some asshole's right to purchase a gigantic pickup truck that spews out carbon monoxide and God knows what every time he steps on the gas. Where's the letter of protest about him? Health experts put too much emphasis on the bad we do to ourselves, rather than what everyday life can do to you. Therefore, leave the smokers alone. It's their choice and right.

  • This is not a personal breach of freedom against smokers. Instead it is the protection of the property (bodies) of non-smokers. I do not appreciate exiting a building and the first thing that I do is walk through a cloud of smoke. I should not have to hold my breath around campus, because smokers feel that they have the right to smoke. The air on campus is a communal property between us all and therefore we should be keeping it as clean as possible for everyone. If there was some sort of chemical plant that was releasing toxins into the air near UH people would be having a fit and find that it is irresponsible of that plant and that it is their responsibility to keep the air clean, so why is this not the same for smokers. If someone wants to blacken their lungs that is fine with me, however ridiculous it is after the years of D.A.R.E that almost every person in college has gone through, but I should have the ability to walk around campus in clean open air (or as clean as it can get in Houston).

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