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

14 replies
  1. James Li
    James Li says:

    “The First Amendment guarantees anyone the right to smoke, . . . .”

    Mr. Cortes should have checked with someone in the USC law school before making this demonstratively incorrect statement. Or, at the least, re-read the First Amendment.

  2. Johann Lieuften
    Johann Lieuften says:

    More importantly, how old is this letter? Why is the Trojan running letters in response to articles published in April?

  3. Undergraduate Student Government
    Undergraduate Student Government says:

    FACT CHECK: The Undergraduate Student Government has not yet passed a resolution regarding USC Smoking Policy.

    We cordially invite you to attend our “Smoke Free Forum” on Wednesday, September 21 at 7pm in THH102 to discuss this issue with key administrators. Free food will be provided.

    Questions? Email the Director of Campus Affairs at jared.ginsburg@usc.edu

  4. Silent Bob
    Silent Bob says:

    Jay,
    Because banning things because they harm only you is the mark of an overbearing state. I don’t want to get all J.S.Mill on you, but if I want to drink alcohol, I will. If I want to smoke outside, that should be my right. and if I want to eat Panda express- Lord, forgive me- you shouldn’t stop me. In a community we need to respect difference, not use the power of elected bodies to force a minority to bow to the aesthetic preferences of the majority. The state doesn’t do nearly enough in many areas- from providing health information to assiting the victims of environmentally-induced disadvantage. Forcing grown adults to curtail activities that barely affect others is not something it should be doing.

    • Alice
      Alice says:

      Eating Panda Express doesn’t harm anyone else, though. You’re exercising your right to eat whatever you want – it’s your body, your choice. Personally, I think fast-food bans do fall under government meddling.

      But if you choose to smoke, you may be within your own rights to do whatever you want to your own body and your own health, but you’re infringing on every single passerby’s right to his/her health.

      This isn’t purely a question of a “nanny state” but rather about protecting everyone – and not just the smoker’s – rights. An extreme example: a murderer might be exercising his right to destroy his own future, but by killing others, he is stepping on his victim’s right to life.

      This isn’t about “aesthetic preferences;” this is about individual rights to health. It isn’t a battle between the state versus the individual’s rights but over rights vs. rights.

      • To Alice
        To Alice says:

        One person eating panda express does harm others.

        Do children not eat the same foods their parents eat? If a parent has Orange chicken for lunch, his/her kid will probably eat the same thing that day.

        Does the kid not have the right to something healthier? yes.

        so in this case, what should we do? Whose rights prevail? Should we ban the parent from eating unhealthy food so his/her child might grow up healthier?

        • Alice
          Alice says:

          I agree that you do bring up an interesting problem. Unrelated to smoking, though, since perfect strangers are harmed by smoking, whereas in your example, children are the victims.

          The reason why there’s such a difference is because children’s rights are kind of tricky. Children are technically not “legal persons” until they’re 18, and their medical and health-related decisions are made for them by their parents. For example, they can opt out of a medical procedure, but they cannot agree to a procedure without parental consent.

          So, with this in mind, it would make more legal sense not to ban fast-food, but to be able to charge parents for neglect if they have extremely obese children.

    • John
      John says:

      “Forcing grown adults to curtail activities that barely affect others is not something it should be doing.”

      Smoking is a leading cause of many health issues beyond cancer, including cardiovascular disease. The carelessness of this particular lifestyle affects many people. It affects you. It affects the people AROUND you. And it affects the costs to the health system. If you think that smoking barely affects others, do some research into the costs of smoking and its related health consequences on the health system and you’ll understand why our health system is broken.

  5. Jay
    Jay says:

    “Why not direct our efforts to reduce breast cancer, prostate cancer or leukemia, the three most common cancers among women, men and children respectively?” — Ummmm, because smoking is a preventable behavior as opposed to environmentally-triggered, genetically predisposed cancers? Smoking doesn’t just cause cancer. It increases risk for a number of health problems (cardiovascular disease, stroke, respiratory diseases).

    “If we ban smoking today, where does it end? What will we ban tomorrow?” Isn’t that a logical fallacy? Well, if we allow same sex marriage, soon people will want to marry their dogs, their first cousins, oh dear god!! (note sarcasm)

    “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?” — that’s a good question. why not ban fast food from our cafeterias? I hate that stuff. And the healthy stuff is so expensive. You might be on to something. Like a moratorium preventing more fast food chains from being established on Figueroa.

    • To Jay
      To Jay says:

      To Jay:

      you seem to be troubled. I completely agree that people should not do things that harm them. But I agree more with having the right to do whatever we want. If people want to drink, or smoke, let them. What gives y-o-u the right to to tell others what to do? Do you think of yourself as above others, in a position to give orders?

      Up to 85 percent of people die with some sort of cancer in them (although it might not be the cause of death). Almost everything releases radioactivity. If you think that forcing your views on other decreases their probability of diseases, think again.

      For example, the very fact that you eat means that you are prone to cancer (all living things, including vegetables, contain carbon and once in a while you eat a special carbon called carbon 14, a radioactive variant.

      Can you prevent cancer from carbon-14? yes. How? Don’t eat.

      So, in an attempt to decrease the probability of y-o-u acquiring cancer, I propose (I demand) you don’t eat. You might get cancer. This is for your own good. You’ll thank me later

    • To Jay
      To Jay says:

      To Jay:

      you seem to be troubled. I completely agree that people should not do things that harm them. But I agree more with having the right to do whatever we want. If people want to drink, or smoke, let them. What gives y-o-u the right to to tell others what to do? Do you think of yourself as above others, in a position to give orders?

      Up to 85 percent of people die with some sort of cancer in them (although it might not be the cause of death). Almost everything releases radioactivity. If you think that forcing your views on other decreases their probability of diseases, think again.

      For example, the very fact that you eat means that you are prone to cancer (all living things, including vegetables, contain carbon and once in a while you eat a special carbon called carbon 14, a radioactive variant.

      Can you prevent cancer from carbon-14? yes. How? Don’t eat.

      So, in an attempt to decrease the probability of y-o-u acquiring cancer, I propose (I demand) you don’t eat. You might get cancer. This is for your own good. You’ll thank me later

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