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The Blue & Gray Press | August 24, 2019

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Cigarette Smoke Clouds Non-Smokers on Campus


Nothing ruins a beautiful day like being deprived of clean oxygen when the person walking in front of you on Campus Walk decides that their 10-minute trek through campus is the best opportunity to light up a cigarette.

Of course, they are walking at just the speed that makes it impossible to pass them without jogging, but you’ll be late for class if you walk any slower, so you end up coughing suggestively and attempting to hold your breath without losing too many brain cells in the time it takes you to walk across campus.

It seems, wherever you go on campus, it’s impossible to avoid running into patches of secondhand smoke. Whether you’re sitting on the deck of the Nest (despite the clear no smoking signs), going into Combs for class, or cutting through the “smircle” outside of Marshall, you will inevitably be exposed to another person’s cigarette smoke. Even sitting behind someone who just lit up before class can make for a very unpleasant 50 minutes.

I understand that smoking in public places is perfectly legal and smokers need to get their nicotine fix. However, it is common courtesy to be mindful of the people around you, a courtesy many smokers at the University of Mary Washington ignore.

According to UMW’s smoking policy, “the right of the nonsmoker to protect from smoke his or her health will take precedence over an individual’s desire to smoke.”

Some people might think I’m being oversensitive. After all, a little secondhand smoke won’t kill anyone, right? Well, the American Cancer Society (ACS) thinks differently.

According to the ACS, “Secondhand smoke is classified as a ‘known human carcinogen’ (cancer-causing agent) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization.”

The ACS says that secondhand smoke is known to be the cause for many diseases and health conditions, and that there is a possible link specifically to breast cancer.

These serious health issues aside, secondhand smoke can have an extremely negative effect on nonsmokers with allergies, asthma, heart or lung conditions, or even just a sensitive sense of smell. I, personally, have gotten more than one headache from being around smoke on campus.

I’m sure that all the smokers on this campus are well aware of the health risks they are taking, and it is their decision to put themselves at risk. Nonsmokers, in many cases, have made a conscious decision not to smoke. Whether it is because of the health risks, the cost of cigarettes, or the fact that smoking is, quite frankly, disgusting, nonsmokers have a right to be free from the harmful smoke.

UMW should put more effort into the implementation of its official Smoking Policy, but, more importantly, smokers on campus should be more considerate of their fellow students. If smokers would try to confine their smoking to areas that are out of the way, I’m sure nonsmokers would be very appreciative.


  1. Jane

    Once again, another non-smoker who feels it necessary to restrict smokers to “areas that are out of the way”. I’m not a smoker, but I fail to see how this suggestion will garner support from those who do smoke. Ms. Balch, why don’t you take the path less traveled instead?

  2. Nick Nelson

    While smokers at UMW do realize the health risks associated, they also realize that Mary Wash is a public university. They are not permitted to smoke inside, they are not permitted to smoke in some outdoor areas on campus, and they have to deal with such passive aggression as “coughing suggestively” to engage in an activity on which they have spent their own money.
    Having been a smoker for much of my time on campus before graduating, I can say that most of the nicotine-inclined were considerate enough to try and stay away from non-smokers. There are simply times where it’s impossible to not be smoking in a large crowd. What you have to understand is, after a particularly brutal day of classes (won’t name names, of course), you need something to take the edge off. I promise, for a great deal of smokers, it’s nothing personal.

  3. Stephanie

    I definitely hate walking behind a smoker. Particularly during busy time of day (like noon) around the Nest. Clearly 300 people are all trying to walk past each other to enter, leave, walk past the Nest entrance but there you have someone walking past with a lit cigarette in the fray. Besides the second hand smoke I am just waiting to see the day when someone gets burned. It is unsafe, unhealthy and a violation of my rights to not have lung cancer (which some members of my family have died of). Sure smokers have rights too but they don’t include giving me cancer.

  4. Walking past a smoker is NOT going to give you cancer. It’s being placed in a situation on a more-than-regular basis, such as living around someone who smokes frequently around you.

  5. Steven Brown

    I know many smokers, and they are all very considerate and nice people. I have asthma (somewhat) and they know I want to hang with them so they go above and beyond to exhale away/downwind from me. I don’t think people consciously mean to do harm – it is, in most cases, a habit – but it can be irksome when it happens in the Eagle’s Nest or Library tunnels where the smoke takes longer to dissipate. If you have to light up (and you have time) maybe stop and finish it somewhere away from the crowd. I don’t mean the very edge of campus, just something like near the James Brown statue as opposed to the middle of campus walk. I do, however, think the author could have gone without the whole cancer bit, seeing as we all know it and it’s been told to us since elementary school.

  6. Elanor

    Secondhand smoke will not automatically give you cancer, if you’re living in a house in which everyone but you smokes, that might do some damage, but “occasional patches” of cig smoke? Come on guys, are you trying to outlaw smoking? Not too long ago smoking ON AIRPLANES was allowed, as well as in many businesses/public buildings. You’re not getting cancer so now the only problem is the smell it seems…maybe there should be an article on farting on campus walk.