Letter to the editor
Smoking is a right
This summer, the University of Michigan became the latest victim in a trend sweeping America.
Joining more than 500 universities, Michigan implemented a 100 percent ban on smoking on campus. Is USC next? It sure looks like it.
In the latest Graduate and Professional Student Senate meeting, an informal poll showed support for a campus ban on smoking.
The faculty and undergraduate senates have already passed motions in favor of a ban.
It might only be a matter of time before they enact one.
Support for the ban stems from health concerns and rights: People have the right to smoke-free oxygen.
This is what Rebecca Gao argued in the April 10 issue of the Daily Trojan in the article “Smoke-free Campus must become a reality.”
I don’t deny that smoking is harmful. Cancers of the esophagus, lung, mouth, larynx and throat are linked to smoking. In the United States, smoking related deaths total about 440,000 each year (about .15 percent of the population).
But should USC really ban smoking? I think not.
Thirteen percent of deaths each year are a result of cancer. So why are we worried about saving 440,000 when millions more need immediate help? Why not direct our efforts to reduce breast cancer, prostate cancer or leukemia, the three most common cancers among women, men and children respectively?
The risks associated with second hand smoke are minimal compared to other diseases that plague humans.
As such, one can’t help but see this ban as the non-smoking majority oppressing a smoking minority population.
Gao and I, though, do have two similarities: We are non-smokers and we believe smoking causes negative health effects. But so do many other types of smoke.
If we ban smoking today, where does it end? What will we ban tomorrow?
Should we ban barbeques on USC game days? Charcoal burns a lot “dirtier” than tobacco; it releases minute particles that pollute the air and are many times more harmful to our lungs than tobacco smoke. So, should we ban BBQ smoke as well? I think not.
If Gao really believes we should be “able to walk from one end of campus to the other without shortening our life expectancies,” why not ban Carl’s Jr. from campus? Or Panda Express? Or any of the other restaurants whose food clogs arteries and gives us heart attacks?
There are dangers all around us. Unfortunately, we cannot get rid of them all.
But there are actions we can take to reduce the amount of second-hand smoke we inhale. One is to not have ash trays outside building doors (see VonKleinSmid Center). This is common sense, yet university officials have not implemented this.
Smoking is a personal choice. The First Amendment guarantees anyone the right to smoke, even if it kills them. USC should not infringe on our personal freedoms.
Juve J. Cortes
Ph.D. political science