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Smoking debate still up in the air

Usually inconspicuous within the student body, smokers at TJC are gathering to stand up for their rights. The much-anticipated debate about proposed modifications concerning smoking on campus is still undecided.

It is possible that smoking could be banned entirely, only allowed in designated areas or left as it is now. TJC Student Senate held an open-floor discussion during their bi-monthly meeting last Tuesday. Before the gavel fell, tension within the opposition was high.

“To take away somebody’s right to smoke is like taking away their right to breathe,” said Sophomore Josh Brown. “If you are going to ban me from something, you need to ban everybody from something. That doesn’t come down to Student Senate.”

In between and after class, most smokers congregate near the picnic tables located outside of Jenkins Hall. The restriction in place now is a Tyler city ordinance. The legislation for the proposed bill is currently in the process of being drafted. The decision will be made with a majority vote of student representatives.

Even some non-smokers are skeptical about the idea of a full-out ban.

“I’ve been in there [inside a student senate meeting] a lot, and I can tell you they do not represent the entire student body,” said Sara Griffin, an education major who is also a non-smoker.

One major concern has been the loss of business or money for TJC if students aren’t allowed to smoke. Another non-smoker, Andrew Goodwin, worries about losing prospective students.

“I really don’t want people to decide between going to TJC or another college JUST because we prohibit smoking on campus or in certain areas on campus,” said Goodwin.

If approved in Student Senate, the legislation will then be sent on to Faculty Senate for debate. If passed, it is uncertain the date in which the potential modifications will be implemented. If approved, some smokers say they will support reversing the decision.

“I would start a petition to have it overturned,” said Sophomore Ricky Stanley. “There’s way too much of a social stigma on smoking.”

Just as non-smokers value their personal rights, so do the individuals who choose to smoke.

“Perfume bothers me. I’m allergic to all fragrances. That’s an invasion of my territory but I put up with it because that’s their individual right,” said History Major Brooke Capps. “That would be taking away somebody’s basic right.”

Health and environmental concerns have also been part of the issue.

“Well, I mean, hey, let’s cut out cars, too. They make more pollution than smoking does,” said Capps.

At the Student Senate meeting, Robert’s Rules of Order was followed and speakers had to approach the podium in order to “have the floor.” Twelve people presented their opinion in front of their fellow classmates. Six stood supporting the smoking restrictions and six stood opposed. One spokesman, Sophomore James Johnson, represented numerous smokers who were at the debate.

“It would be the same as saying to somebody who eats a lot of McDonalds, ‘hey you’re overweight, you need to go run on a treadmill.’ But you don’t do that, it’s a person’s choice. Just like smoking is our choice.”

Johnson agreed with the possibility of designated smoking areas such as a gazebo, but was not in favor of a smoke-free campus.

“I’m all about freedom- freedom of expression, freedom to choose whatever you want to choose. This is America. So, let’s live like it is,” said Johnson.

Clint McGuiness also addressed the floor against the proposed smoking ban. He asked the people present to consider both sides and opinions instead of just their own.

“Narrow-mindedness is not a virtue,” said McGuiness. “The idea of us having to go across the street to Weinerland, is absurdity and downright insanity… I really cannot even begin to fathom that idea in my mind.”

Pro-rights smokers also wonder about further restraints.

“It has been both my personal belief and experience that if you secede a certain amount of rights to somebody who is of opposing beliefs to you, that they will increase their demands for that, for their rights, to encroach upon your own,” said Patrick “Johnny” Gilliam. “It would be one of my fears as a smoker that if we were given this designated area, how much longer would it be before this campus as a whole was non-smoking?”

After each person had spoken, Texas Junior College Student Government Association State President (TJCSGA) Zarrick Cannon reminded everyone that Student Senate was unbiased about the outcome of the vote.

“It seems to be very polarized on both sides,” said Student Senate Vice-President Matt Oates. “But it’s our job to be neutral.”

The next discussion will be at 4 p.m. March 30 in the White Administration Building.

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