The Daily Gamecock

Letter to the Editor: USC's tobacco ban unrealistic measure

After five years of smoking, I quit. I was surprised at how easy it was once I set my mind to it. Really. The cravings weren’t too terribly bad, and they ended after a few days. These days, there really isn’t much that makes me want to smoke, with the exception of one thing: Healthy Carolina’s Tobacco Free USC initiative. I find it curious enough that every time I hear anything about “Tobacco Free USC,” I want to buy a pack of cigarettes and light up just to protest the policy, not because I even want to smoke but just because the idea of the policy is infuriating to me.

There are, of course, a few reasons the policy rubs me the wrong way. First off, USC is not a private university. This is a public space, owned by the state government. This policy is therefore unenforceable, as you cannot punish someone for doing something that is completely in compliance with the law.

Ever wondered when the violence in Five Points started? The minute they forced everyone who likes to smoke while drinking outside to get drunk on the street standing around in a big group instead of sitting peacefully in a bar. Besides that, this rule is akin to saying that drinking coffee inside is no longer allowed because coffee smells bad and can cause gastrointestinal problems.

Of course, there are those who would say, “It’s not the same! This is protecting the health of those around the smokers, too!” What no one tells you is that yes, if it is not the same, it’s at least pretty similar. When they talk about second-hand smoke related illnesses, the cause is not just catching a whiff of smoke outside. The cause is prolonged exposure in enclosed environments. Outside on the street, you’re getting more cancer from passing vehicles than from all the smokers combined.
Secondly, I feel like the Healthy Carolina initiative is demeaning to those who use tobacco. In all their publications, they act as though smokers and smokeless tobacco users are misguided, uninformed individuals. In reality, the majority of tobacco users on campus are perfectly happy with their habit and know they can quit. They just don’t want to.

If anyone is misguided, it’s the people banning tobacco. Look at their reasoning for banning smokeless tobacco: “We don’t want students to just resort to dipping instead of smoking.” Dipping is harming no one but the user, so banning it obviously isn’t a matter of public safety. Those that dip are harming absolutely no one but themselves.

Thirdly, tobacco users are generally considerate of others. If you ask them to put their cigarette out or not to smoke around you, most will respect that and will move elsewhere. That said, no smoker on campus is going to care about some arbitrary rule, and most will take pride in breaking what they see as an unfair and, above all, boneheaded rule. They will not attend “mandatory cessation classes,” as if they are as bad as those who go for a joy ride after 15 pints at Pint Night: a problem USC should focus on over tobacco users.

Honestly, I do agree that some smokers on campus can be rude about it. It has always bothered me seeing a group of people standing around the entrance to a building clogging the air with smoke, and I can understand how nonsmokers can take umbrage to that. Even my eyes water when walking into a cloud of smoke. I also agree that there should be some regulation. The answer is not, however, a total, all-encompassing ban, because it will not work. Anyone who believes that that will ever actually work is delusional.

One workable answer is to just enforce the policy that is already in place, or even better, to create designated areas near enough to classes that smokers can go to smoke and be unmolested by the Healthy Carolina activists. In the meantime, the tobacco ban should be abandoned. Smokers will respect reasonable rules, but the minute someone goes up to another and demands that they put their cigarette out because of the new “rule,” the entire plan will go up in flames.
— Markus Johnson, second-year English and history student