By BRIDGET BALCH
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.