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Monday, November 29, 2021

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Guest Column: Non-smoking policy sets personal right aflame


On March 9, 2001, University of Houston conceived its tobacco-free campus policy. Since then, it has gone through many revisions, widening in scale each time.

The policy’s intention was to create a safer campus while adhering to the going “green” approach as highlighted in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. LEED also brings forth financial incentives such as tax credits and grants for future construction.

While walking to class this summer, I passed by an ongoing heated argument: An older woman yelled at a younger man because of his cigarette. She said he needed to follow the rules, and he claimed that smoking was his right as a tax-paying adult.

The argument ended with the man walking away. Although the generation gap is easily seen as a factor in this quarrel, there is still an issue regarding people’s rights versus policies of institutions.

When I first took classes here in Fall 2014, there were areas in which students and, on the rare occasion, a professor would sit and smoke. Farish Hall is a memorable one because I tried to avoid the cigarette odor while passing by.

These designated areas bring all smokers to a particular corner of the campus, allowing everyone to “walk at their own risk.” To dispose of the finished cigarettes there were ash trays, which concentrated all the litter in one place.

By taking away the smoking areas and ash trays, the University eradicated one of the rights that students have as adults. They created a prohibition culture on campus. Like the ban on liquor in the 1920s, this, too, will also be a failure.

A repeal of this policy is needed.

While I understand the opposition to smoking — the health issues, litter or annoyance — they all can be dealt with civilly. It is our right to make our own decisions sans the organizational implementation of policies, namely 07.02.02.

If this policy is for the health of the students, then I say: We can handle ourselves. If it is to avoid the cigarette butts, then supply ash trays.

Smoking is a right, and smoking sections can help everyone out. When tax credits are involved, you see where we stand as students and citizens.

Guest columnist Chance A. Smith is an undergraduate researcher and president of the Sociological Students Association. He can be reached at [email protected]

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