Smoking restrictions infringe on freedom


Remember the good old days when you could smoke a cigarette in class? How about the common adage “a cigarette a day keeps the doctor away,” and those very doctors were puffing away in hopes that each successive drag would align their humors?

Neither do we, and while we don’t miss those ignorant halcyon days, we feel compelled to stand up for the waning rights of those hacking habitués: smokers.

Increasing pressure from lawmakers and concerned citizens has engendered legislation that crosses the line between public health and personal freedom. Members from both camps of the anti-smoking campaign have influenced UNF in past years with indoor smoking bans and the “Swoop Safety” banners that adorn campus colonnades.

While we credit UNF for following the Clean Indoor Act and Section 20, Article X of the Florida constitution – if applauding a state institution for following state laws is necessary – both of those laws pertain to indoor smoking.

In other words, the UNF policy and regulations stipulation about outdoor smoking, which states, “All tobacco users will be restricted to outside areas generally located at least 25 feet away from buildings and heavily traveled walkways,” is not legally compulsory.

UNF has taken it upon itself to police students and faculty with overly restrictive policy, no doubt at the behest of cringing non-smokers. Cigarettes offend the fume-free crowd’s delicate sensibilities and arouse spectral fears about second hand smoke, but neither concern is worthy of curtailing our freedom.

Many of you are probably clenching your teeth at the prospect of second hand smoke being innocuous – we suggest you calm down with a nice Benson & Hedges, or maybe a Gauloises. Just kidding, the Spinnaker is not in the pocket of Big Tobacco.

Studies have shown that second-hand smoke is extremely dangerous, but the oft-referred to studies are almost exclusively conducted indoors. People hear “x-number of people die from second-hand smoke” and don’t realize that these unfortunate souls are the ones who live close quarters with a coterie of chain-smokers, not casual second-hand smokers on college campuses.

A recent University of Georgia study found that outdoor second-hand smoke only appears at dangerous concentrations in front of bars, restaurants, etc. at peak hours – such as during sporting events.

The study concluded that smoke levels on college campuses were negligible. While research on second hand smoke has thankfully lead to lower rates of cancer and heart disease, biased reporting has lead to a public view that is lacking nuance and leaving smokers out in the cold – literally.

Being 25 feet from a building or trafficked walkway means possibly being subjected to icy winds and rain, well, just about any time. You may think we are being a little hyperbolic here, and you may have a point. But the real point is that smokers are being not only coerced, but coerced into a worse situation than they were in – all for no legitimate reason.

If it was proven that either outdoor second-hand smoke or non-smokers’ offended olfactory glands were an actual public health concern, the matter would be very different. But as it stands, UNF’s policy favors both unmitigated rumor and the personal tastes of a particular group.