My Lungs, My Prerogative

Written by Paulina Ukrainets

In last week’s issue of The Catalyst, an article was published that caught my attention—Colorado College is currently revising its smoking policy and is considering going smoke-free, supposedly by popular demand. Luckily for me, this potential new policy (if it does come into effect) will not be implemented until at least the next school year, but the idea of a completely smoke-free campus is fairly terrifying to me, and thus it seemed important to address it, even if my opinion as a smoker is the unpopular one.

When I was deciding which college to attend, the smoking policies were definitely a factor in my decision-making process. First of all, clearly I’m a smoker, so being on a non-smoking campus, especially a residential one, would have been extremely inconvenient. Looking at the slightly bigger picture, though, strict non-smoking policies implemented on campuses didn’t make me see the schools as healthier—they made me see the schools as less liberal and free.

With a few exceptions, by the time most people enter college they will have reached the legal smoking age of 18 and thus are fully in their right to buy and smoke cigarettes. While a lot of people, very reasonably, might not agree with a person’s decision to smoke, the most important thing to remember is that it is still an individual decision. By the time people reach college they are supposed to be able, or at least learning to be able, to be responsible for their own actions, and taking away the option to smoke on campus is not teaching anyone responsibility or agency. The only (or at least, the only sustainable) way to get a smoker to quit is to make them want to quit—forcing someone to change their behavior by exercising authority is likely to just increase friction, and why shouldn’t it?

College is supposed to be a time to grow, and with that growth comes a certain distance from authority—the authoritative hierarchy becomes considerably less present during the transition from high school to college, and hopefully by the end of your college career you will have learned to trust and respect yourself, as much (if not more) than anybody else. The smoke-free policy would be diminishing that learning process.

Clearly, my opinion on this issue is fairly biased, but I’m okay with that. I make a conscious effort to minimize the effects of my smoking on other people, but apart from that, my habit is really nobody else’s business. With CC being a residential campus for at least the first two years of school, implementing a smoke-free policy would deprive perhaps a small but still present percentage of the population from being able to make their own decisions about their well-being. To me, this would be extremely problematic.

Reading last week’s article made me wonder about the people campaigning for a smoke-free campus. You don’t like smoking? Good for you! It’s unhealthy, likely to give you lung cancer, and often quite expensive. You don’t like someone smoking around you? Just walk away! Or ask them to do the same, and I promise you, especially at CC, they are very likely to oblige. However, if you see someone smoking across the street and are filled with a desire to snatch their cigarette out of their hand and throw it down the nearest drain, maybe you should consider why something that so clearly doesn’t involve you, bothers you so much.

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