Snuffing out puffing on campus would save lives
By Kyra Sherwood
The Northern Light
The Alaska Native Medical Center declared its campus completely smoke-free a year ago, banning smoking even in the parking lots. Now Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional and North Star Behavioral hospitals, and the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center are following suit.
Some are applauding the change; others say it’s too severe to require employees, patients and visitors alike to pack away their cigarettes the entire time they’re on the hospitals’ campuses. Still, considering the purpose of a hospital is to help people regain and maintain their health, it makes sense to ban a drug that causes illnesses those hospitals are fighting.
What if UAA made the same move, forcing smokers to leave campus entirely to light up?
It’s not an impossible idea. A recent CNN article reported that nearly 60 colleges across the U.S. have instated smoke-free policies that affect the entire campus, and many more have less strict policies, similar to UAA’s current stance on smoking that has banned it indoors since 1989.
As much as it would inconvenience smokers at UAA, such a move on the administration’s part would make just as much sense as it does at area hospitals.
Tobacco, after all, causes 30 percent of all deaths from cancer, according to the American Cancer Society; a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2002 found that smoking-related illnesses cost the nation upwards of $157 billion every year. Fully one-third of all smokers will suffer an early death because of tobacco use.and about a third of college students are smokers. Of the 15 million college students today, about 1.7 million will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses, according to the Health & Human Development Programs.
And it’s not just the smokers themselves who suffer. Unlike alcohol – an equally legal and dangerous drug – tobacco is generally seen to affect only those who choose to consume it. Last year, though, Surgeon General Richard Carmona released a report saying there is no safe level for secondhand smoke either: “Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults.”
Nonsmokers make up the majority of UAA’s student population, but it’s nearly impossible to walk between buildings without inhaling a lungful of cigarette smoke – especially when smokers light up just outside doorways and force everyone who wants to enter to walk right by them. (The instant headache when a classmate reeking of smoke sits next to you doesn’t help in studying, either.)
Many smokers at Anchorage’s hospitals aren’t happy about the ban, and those at UAA wouldn’t be either if the university made a similar decision. But the inconvenience of walking a long distance to puff a cigarette might convince some to kick their deadly habit – and isn’t a little irritation worth saving lives?
Smokers have a right to light up
By Emma Gould
The Northern Light
The smokers’ world is rapidly shrinking, and they are fuming mad.
Providence Alaska Medical Center’s recent decision to ban smoking on their property has some wondering if the same would ever be considered across the street at UAA.
More than 1.8 million full-time college students are smokers, according to a national Harvard University study in 2001. This is a huge demographic that the university authorities cannot just ignore. A campus-wide smoking ban would alienate this group of people and trample on their right to make personal decisions.
As a smoker, a push for a ban feels personal to me. Does my decision to smoke make me any less of a person? Does my choice to light a cigarette mean that other people who choose not to can tell me where to go or try to eliminate that choice altogether?
There are a myriad of products on the market and in our homes that cause cancer, yet secondhand smoke seems to be targeted the most. Are you going to stop washing your hair just because nearly every shampoo on the shelf contains sodium laureth sulfate, a chemical known to cause cancer in lab tests, but that also gives your shampoo a lovely sudsy effect? The same people who argue that they do not want to breathe in secondhand smoke are willing to breathe in exhaust from a car or eat processed foods that may cause a heart attack.
The thing is, smokers know that what they are doing is bad; they know that it is an expensive addiction, but when it comes to a ban, they do not want to talk health issues. As the number of legal places to smoke wanes, they will readily speak out about civil rights and personal decisions. Many smokers feel that their shared habit is a lifestyle choice, and they want at least some place where they can congregate publicly and enjoy it, even if it is around an ashtray that is 50 feet from a building.
Students, faculty and staff have the right to choose what they want to do, be it smoke a cigarette, wash their hair with cancer-causing shampoo or drive a car that emits ozone-dissolving fumes. A board of university officials does not have the right to limit what personal decisions people make.
We smokers have respected the non-smokers by staying out of the buildings, we have respected them by standing 50 feet from the door and we have done so with a smile on our faces and a cigarette in hand. The least they can do is afford the same respect toward our choice to light up, just as they choose not to.