Let me preface this post by saying that I’m a non-smoker. Smoking is a foul habit that will probably kill you. Nicotine is a peculiar and pointless drug in that it’s powerfully addictive even though it doesn’t provide much of a buzz. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to inhale burning flora, you might as well smoke cannabis and get hiiiiiigh.
That said, the persecution of smokers that has been taking place of late is absurd. In many states (NY and CA, for example), you can’t even smoke in a bar. What the fuck? Bars are not health clubs; they’re for drinking and picking up sex partners who almost certainly have VD. Requiring bar owners who want to permit smoking to pay for a license would be reasonable, but an outright ban? People who support this paternalism always talk about the dangers of secondhand smoke, one of the great myths of our time. Secondhand smoke may be a nuisance, but it’s not lethal; in fact, it even has a certain benefit. The only person ever to get lung cancer from secondhand smoke was a guy who spent the first 40 years of his life living in a walk-in closet with Humphrey Bogart. Look it up.
And then there are tobacco taxes, which politicians regularly jack up with the purported intention of reducing smoking. Never mind that smokers tend to be poor, or that raising the price of a pack of cigarettes by $.50 won’t make smokers quit because they’re addicted. Just keep on treating people who choose to consume a legal product as limitless resources.
My school, Carnegie Mellon, has taken this absurdity even further: beginning in 2009, smoking on campus will only be permitted in designated areas. That’s right, you can’t even smoke OUTSIDE. And it’s not as though CMU has a big smoking problem; in fact, based on my observations, the smoking rate here is significantly lower than that of the general population. But hey, don’t let the fact that it’s a complete non-issue stand in the way of your bullshit “Healthy Campus” initiative. Below is a letter I sent to the school newspaper:
To the Editor:
I’d like to applaud the Student Senate, Faculty Senate, Staff Council, Graduate Student Assembly and President’s Council for addressing the urgent problem of smoking on campus. As it is, one cannot walk across campus without being bombarded with billowing clouds of noisome tobacco smoke. This year, I scheduled all my classes in one building so as to spend as little time outside as possible; nonetheless, I still come home every day with a hacking cough, reeking of cigarettes. The new smoking policy should help to clean up the campus’ polluted air while isolating and stigmatizing those responsible for the current environmental catastrophe.
I understand that this desperately needed and well thought out policy is part of the “Healthy Campus 2010” initiative. By the time this noble initiative is through, I assume that all snack and soda machines will have been removed from campus and Sequoia Grill, Si Senor, and other purveyors of unhealthful food will have been forced to change their menus or move out. May I also suggest a fine for students who do not meet an appropriate weekly exercise quota?
It is clear that CMU students, though adults, cannot be trusted to make their own choices. They should consider themselves lucky that the university is looking out for their best interests.