Clearing the Smoke

During its last meeting, Student Senate proposed a resolution to make Grand Valley State University a smoke-free campus. If the university approves an anti-smoking policy, it would join the ranks of many other Michigan universities, such as Saginaw Valley State University, the University of Michigan and Central Michigan University.

Some are opposed to the proposal, as they claim that it stands in the way of smokers’ rights. But many of us are aware that the contents of a lone cigarette are inhaled by more people than the person who lit it. So if smoking is continued on campus, the “right” to health of passers-by are diminished. If smoking is done away with, the “right” for smokers to light up is gone. In this case, we have to ask: which “right” is a priority?

Yet, some argue that no choice between the two “rights” needs to be made. After all, they say, people who are bothered by the smoke can stand or walk elsewhere.

But we wonder how easy it is to avoid the smoke on campus. Our experiences walking to class on campus have led us to believe that many smokers do not follow the 25-foot rule outside academic and dining halls, so we play a game of “who can hold their breath the longest” as we sprint behind the doors of our respective buildings. Walking behind on-the-go smokers — especially over the Little Mac Bridge where no alternative route is available — also poses a problem, and we do our best to take detours to avoid inhaling the billows in our path.

For those of us with asthma or other breathing problems, the high potential to encounter smoke is particularly troublesome.

So while we understand the points made by pro-smoking or pro-designated-smoking-spot community members, we — as students perhaps selfishly looking out for our own health — still have to extend our support of the Student Senate’s efforts to diminish smoke exposure on campus.

Perhaps it can propose an alternative wherein people must retreat to the edges of campus to smoke, or perhaps it can start by simply banning smoking on the stretch of pavement between Lake Michigan Hall and Mackinaw Hall, which is heavily trafficked during the week.

Maybe banning smoking altogether isn’t the answer, but the Senate is on the right track by considering alternatives to the regulations already in place.