If you answered “a frequent haze of cigarette smoke,” give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back.
Or rather — don’t. We should be ashamed USC still permits smoking on campus.
According to no-smoke.org, more than 500 other universities across the nation have already gone completely smoke-free, and it’s about time USC did the same, for the sake of students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Members of the USC faculty are pushing for a smoke-free campus to become a reality, and soon.
Given the smoky haze that blankets much of campus, it seems this is a necessary step.
At the moment, smoking is prohibited in enclosed buildings, facilities and university vehicles on both of USC’s campuses
USC’s Health Sciences Campus has already gone completely smoke-free to protect patients, staff and visitors in the hospitals and research centers.
Why cigarette butts pepper USC’s main campus, however, remains a mystery.
Is it because USC is uninterested in the health of its students and faculty? Is it out of fear of a backlash from those who argue smoking should not be regulated by the university because it is a personal choice?
As a non-smoker, I should be able to walk across campus without having to breathe tobacco smoke. Second-hand smoke can cause negative health effects such as a dramatically increased risk of lung cancer, heart attacks and possible neurological damage. Studies have also shown the toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke leave harmful residue on clothing, walls, benches and other objects that come into contact with the smoke.
Some argue banning smoking entirely would leave no safe places for smokers.
To correct for this, perhaps there could be a few designated smoking areas faraway from areas of heavy student traffic or smoking rooms or like the “booths” commonly used in airports. Currently, the Ronald Tutor Campus Center and the Pertusati Bookstore are designated smoking areas. There are ways to accommodate smokers without placing the entire USC population at risk.
Additionally, USC should implement programs to help people quit smoking to ease the transition to a smoke-free campus. Education on the harmful health effects of tobacco smoke should be continued, as well.
In April 2010, the Academic Senate passed an initiative to put USC on the path of a smoke-free campus. Shortly after, members of the USC Staff Assembly, who are elected by the staff of the university to serve two-year terms, have also passed an initiative to make USC completely smoke-free.
Now, it is up to the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Senate to take action.
If USC really does make its students and faculty’s well being a top priority, then we should soon be able to walk from one end of campus to the other without shortening our life expectancies because of repeated exposure to tobacco smoke.
Rebecca Gao is a freshman majoring in global health and biological sciences. Her column, “Trojan Grounds,” runs Mondays.