Where There’s Smoke ... There Shouldn’t Be
By Brian Smith '12
One of my most favorite memories from kindergarten was discovering that I could count to 100. Even better was discovering the shortcut: “one, two, skip a few, 99, 100!” But what I remember most about kindergarten was having to go to the nurse’s office to take my asthma medicine through a nebulizer. Oh, and I had to do that during playtime. As a kid, I didn’t realize what my asthma was or why I had it, but I soon found out. My dad was a smoker, and, as long as he continued to smoke, I continued to have breathing difficulty.

When I was in eighth grade, my dad quit smoking, and my asthma all but vanished. By this point, I had learned all about smoking and the consequences it carried. In high school, I hardly knew anyone who smoked. So, I wasn’t really expecting to find cigarette butts scattered all across the campus of the College. At a school as highly regarded and revered as Amherst is, I find it surprising to see so many students lighting up. I know it’s legal for almost everyone here, and even a few of my friends here smoke, but I think it’s time for people to wise up and drop the deadly habit.

I want to talk explicitly about cigarette smoking. While I certainly have my views on marijuana and other inhalable drugs, those topics open up a whole other can of worms.

I understand how difficult it is to quit smoking. According to the University of Rhode Island, of all the college students who smoke, half have tried, unsuccessfully, to quit. I also understand why people decide to pick up the habit, as watching just one episode of “Mad Men” can give you a nicotine craving. But what I don’t understand is why Amherst students smoke. I mean this is Amherst we’re talking about. We’re the cream of the crop, the heavily recruited and the best of the best. And yet we have a group of brilliant people doing really harmful things to their bodies. Perhaps people do it just because they can, or maybe because they think it contributes to their personality. Whatever the reason, I’m completely dumbfounded by the size of the smoking community here.

One thing that really surprises me is the number of athletes here who smoke. With all the training and dedication athletes put into their sports, one would think that smoking would be the last thing any of them would want to do. The days of smoking in the dugout or locker room are long gone, but it’s not out of the ordinary to see an athlete smoking around campus. I don’t know what their coaches know, but I’m sure if a coach saw his or her athletes lighting up there would be some serious repercussions.

I’ve also noticed that there are some campus smokers who have no regard for second-hand smoke. I’ve actually gone as far as to hold my breath while walking past smokers. It’s really awful to have your appetite destroyed while walking past smokers standing right outside of Val. Even worse than that is taking part in a three-hour lab when your lab partner smells like smoke. If you smoke, it’s probably best to not go around flaunting it. Instead, use a bit of discretion and a little Febreze. And all of this is against the smoking policy the College has set in place, mind you. The smoking policy of the College clearly states that anyone smoking must be no closer than 25 feet from a building on campus. Of course, living in Morris Pratt last year included being surrounded by cigarette butts every time you entered or exited the building.

To be completely honest, I think smoking should be illegal. It’s worse than some illegal drugs, and it’s no secret that it’s going to kill you eventually. If smoking is going to be legal, then meth and crack and speed should all be legal too. But I don’t want to discuss the legality of it; rather, I want to know why nothing is being done on our campus about it. Why doesn’t the College do something about this problem? Yes, there are numbers you can call and people you can talk to, but I seriously doubt that those options are frequently used. There should be incentive to quit beyond the direct health benefits.

Obviously, there will be some people who don’t want to give up smoking. But, for those who do, there should be a reward that will create a permanent and beneficial health change. While the health benefits should be a reward in themselves, sometimes there should be additional incentive. Perhaps the College could give student smokers grants to acquire cessation aids, or even announcement of their achievements in school publications. Whatever the case, more needs to be done to help smokers here. I’m sure I’m not the only one holding my breath when in the presence of smoke, and I don’t want to hold it any longer.

Issue 02, Submitted 2010-09-20 20:19:08