Students should take smoking ban seriously

by Kelly Gardner

They are small: about three inches long, rolled with white paper and generally come 20 to a pack. Depending on who you are, they may be considered either a friend or an enemy. I’m talking about cigarettes.

The little sticks of tobacco began their rise in popularity in the early 19th century, but were only smoked, for the most part, by men. The 1920s propelled cigarettes into their full-fledged takeover. Lucky Strike cigarettes realized the necessity of reaching women consumers, and with the help of the slogan “torches of freedom,” they were able to draw them in. As cigarettes finally reached a status of overall acceptance from society, there was little to hold them back from success.

The side effects that they have on peoples health were unknown when cigarettes were gaining popularity. In fact, in the 1920s cases of lung cancer were so rare that medical students were not expected to be able to observe one. Cigarettes’ side effects continued to be revealed throughout the years, and unfortunately the list is not short. Cigarettes alone are associated with causing 11 different types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other heart problems, multiple respiratory diseases, low bone density, infertility in women, sudden infant death syndrome and death, usually as a result of one of the previously mentioned illnesses.

So why bring this up now? In the 21st century, we are well aware of the health effects that go hand-in-hand with smoking, yet there still seems to be an abundance of smokers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention there are about 45.3 million adults who smoke in the U.S.—19.3 percent of the total population. There isn’t one specific demographic that smokes more than any other, and as far as studies show, race and gender don’t have a major impact on whether or not a person is likely to be a smoker.

However, recent findings show that the demographic of American smokers between the ages of 18 and 24 may be changing future trends. In 2005, young adult smokers were the largest age group at 24.4 percent; by 2011, that number dropped to 18.9 percent, making them the smallest age group. This may not be the only sign that future trends are changing.

As the health problems associated with smoking have become increasingly prominent throughout the years, more and more people have been coming forward with initiatives to regulate cigarettes and the people who smoke them. The biggest controversy with cigarettes is their toxicity. Not only are they killing the people who willingly smoke them, they are also killing innocent bystanders.

Secondhand smoke is the biggest driver of initiatives to regulate smoking. Not only can secondhand smoke be unpleasant and irritating to others, it can actually kill them. It may sound dramatic, but it’s not. According to the CDC, “secondhand smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.”

Each year in the U.S., about 46,000 people die prematurely as a result of heart disease from secondhand smoke and another 3,400 die prematurely from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke. Those deaths represent non-smokers, meaning that it was somebody else’s actions that caused them to die, sort of like when a drunk driver kills a sober driver in a car accident.

Smoking regulations vary drastically state to state, and even county to county. San Diego State considers itself a smoke-free school; however, until recently there were 12 designated smoking areas in which people were allowed to light up. Beginning Jan. 1, SDSU officially became an entirely smoke-free campus, meaning those 12 smoking areas no longer exist. For all you smokers roaming the campus of our beloved school, beware of the changes you will face upon the return of next semester.

I’m not a smoker. I do, however, fully respect the right of every individual to make his or her own decisions. If that involves smoking cigarettes, so be it. I take issue with where the lines are blurred; while it’s an individual’s right to cause harm to his or herself, it isn’t his or her right to cause harm to others. I’m unwillingly being exposed to cigarette toxins when others around me are smoking. For this reason, we need to set some clear boundaries to protect non-smokers. With this new policy, I hope to see a respectful relationship formed between those who smoke and those who choose not to.