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University Should Impose Stricter Punishment for Smoking on Campus

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     UAlbany is not a tobacco-free campus; therefore, I have moments where I can’t breathe and my chest burns because a fellow student is smoking. UAlbany needs to be tobacco-free. I’m allergic to cigarette smoke, and it’s problematic for me to be around others who smoke. Besides, we all know the statistics. Smoking and secondhand smoke kill, so why is it allowed on campus?

     According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. The CDC concluded that one of every five deaths in America are caused by smoking each year. More than 480,000 deaths happen annually that are linked to smoking or second-hand smoking. An estimated 41,000 deaths happen each year among adults who have been exposed to secondhand smoke. 7,333 of the annual deaths from secondhand smoke are from lung cancer, and 33,951 annual deaths from secondhand smoke are from heart disease. Exposure to secondhand smoke can kill students, and we can no longer ignore this risk on campus.

     I thought UAlbany was a tobacco-free campus until my first day of classes, when I ran into someone smoking outside. I figured it must be a new student who was unaware of the non-smoking policy or didn’t care. But I was the one who was unaware of the policy. I later learned UAlbany’s policy only bans smoking in all indoor University buildings and within 10 feet of entrances and open windows. A policy that is not enforced, since students smoke right outside the library constantly. Learning this, I now fear the health risks involved when walking to class, and worry over the moments where I can’t breathe. I’m attending college to brighten my future, not shorten it with the threat of cancer or heart disease. Is there a lack of concern to students’ health here at UAlbany? How did other New York state college campuses compared to us?

     During my research, I found the Tobacco Free U: 2015 New York State Dean’s List. This list looked at college campuses’ smoke-free and tobacco-free policies. 60 colleges (30%) have a tobacco-free campus policy, which results in an A grade. 25 colleges (12%) have a smoke-free campus policy, which results in a B grade. 42% of campuses in New York state do not allow smoking on campus, period. We are not one of them, and in this study, UAlbany received a D grade. 63 colleges (31%) did receive D grades. The report did mention that 15 colleges are in the process of establishing either a smoke-free or tobacco-free campus policy.

      This issue was brought up in 2016 to the Student Association Senate, according to an Odyssey article written by Andy Doorty, a graduate of UAlbany. The Tobacco-Free Campus resolution was tabled, allowing students a chance to voice their concerns. This may seem a positive sign of change, but in 2009, a bill was introduced by the University Life Council to the University Senate for a smoke-free campus. As I was writing this and packing up to class, I ran into two smokers directly outside the library, a third by the stairs, and saw a fourth through the window. Clearly no true progress has been made in achieving this goal.

     Changing the smoking policy may upset some students and staff who are smokers. The word, “right” may be thrown in the conversation. But what about my right to breathe clean air, my right to not be exposed to cancer causing chemicals? A smoker chooses to put himself or herself at risk by smoking; I do not consent to that risk. Don’t we all have the right to feel safe? Your “right” to smoke is impacting my public health, a right that is protected under the New York State Constitution Article XVII Public Health. I’m sure if I walked around campus and sprayed poisonous fumes that had cancer causing chemicals, I would be expelled and most likely arrested. So how come it is okay for smokers to do the same thing? How come it is okay to ignore my rights? Shouldn’t I be able to get a higher education without getting lung cancer or heart disease?

Raymond Strawn III

     What can we do to help achieve a tobacco-free campus? We can bring our concerns to the Student Association Senate and ask to push the Tobacco-Free Campus resolution. We can also contact the SUNY Student Association, who are responsible for all SUNY students, and ask for a resolution to make all SUNY campuses tobacco-free. If enough students voice their concerns, we can achieve a tobacco-free campus. We can go all go to class safely breathing clean air.

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