Secondhand smoke has been proven to be a silent killer. It causes approximately 3,400 deaths a year from lung cancer and 22,700 to 69,900 deaths a year from heart disease, according to the American Lung Association.
In 2006, the Surgeon General warned that there is no safe amount of exposure to secondhand smoke. Any amount of exposure can increase the risk for a heart attack or cause other serious health problems. Student Senate is considering making changes to Tyler Junior College’s current smoking policy.
Many students at Tyler Junior College do not feel that they should involuntarily be exposed to these health hazards.
“Please don’t force that on people who don’t choose to have anything to do with that. You can make your own choice but don’t bring other people down with you,” said Amanda Duke, TJC student.
The proposal of TJC becoming a completely tobacco-free campus, or at least having designated smoking areas, came to be because several students complained about no longer wanting to deal with secondhand smoke. This made Student Senate realize that the majority of the student body may want a change.
“We are trying as hard as we can to make the majority of the people happy and to compromise for the people that we don’t make happy,” said Austin Witherspoon, Student Senate President.
Smoke has adverse effects on different people. For some, smoke causes them to have trouble breathing and may cause others to have an allergic reaction. Whatever reaction it causes, some people just do not feel that it is fair to take away their right to breathe clean air.
“It does need to be restricted to some place where people walking on the sidewalks aren’t exposed to it as they walk by. We have people who are pregnant on campus, there (also) are people who have allergies,” said Jessica Poeschl, TJC student.
The health hazard is not the only issue. Some areas on campus where students smoke are covered with cigarette butts.
“I personally agree with the fact that we are getting a little bit messy out here. We do throw our cigarette butts everywhere and it is a little nasty,” said Josh Brown, a TJC sophomore who smokes.
Some smokers on campus feel that smoking is their right and no one should be able to take that away. Smokers know the damaging effects smoking has on their bodies, and they have made a decision that this is alright for them. But they have also decided to harm others that have to walk by them just to get to or from classes.
“I know that I’m harming myself by smoking…we’re all gonna die anyway, but at least we know how we’re going to,” said Brown.
While most smokers feel that they have the right to smoke, non-smokers and even some smokers feel that everyone should have the right to breathe clean air.
“Out of respect for our fellow students who don’t want to encounter secondhand smoke, I think it would be a good idea to have designated areas,” said Faith Byrd, TJC student.
Byrd is a smoker, but also a health profession major. Since she knows the dangers of secondhand smoke, she feels everyone should have a right to be protected from it.
Other non-smokers are just tired of being inconvenienced by someone else’s habit.
“It’s been very unpleasant walking between classes, and my sister is mildly asthmatic. It also has been difficult for her,” said Owen Crawford, TJC student.
TJC is supposed to already be in compliance with the city ordinance that mandates smokers smoke a certain number of feet from buildings. But the ordinance isn’t enforced because Campus Safety doesn’t have the jurisdiction to enforce city laws on campus. If any smoking restrictions passed they would be placed in the TJC handbook and be enforceable by Campus Safety.
“With placing our own restrictions on campus it makes it something we can enforce,” said Matt Oates, student senate vice-president. “Even as a smoker, I’m not one of those people who likes to walk through when there’s a big group of people (smoking), I always try to stand downwind. Sometimes 50 feet just isn’t enough.”
Students who have a problem with smoking on campus said that they are not asking smokers to change their lives or kick the habit. They simply want the smokers to respect their health, especially since the effects of smoking are well known. If the campus does adopt smoking restrictions, students expect these rules to be followed.
“I don’t think people who are for the change, are telling you to necessarily change the way you live your life, but there’s rules everywhere” said Jawoine Hawkins, student. “We all know exactly what smoking can do to the body, such as cancer and other diseases.”