By John Restuccia
The first thing that should be known about me is that I am a transfer student from a small Catholic Franciscan school in the middle of nowhere. When transferring to Binghamton University, the thing that stood out to me the most was the lack of smoking on campus. No one was smoking cigarettes, cigars, or chewing. I do consider myself a smoker; I enjoy cigars on a frequent basis. Where I work, everyone smokes everything from cigarettes to vape pens, so I have picked up some things about the subject of smoking cigarettes as well. So when I asked a student I met if he wanted to enjoy a cigar before class, the student informed me of the school’s no smoking policy.
To me this seemed ridiculous. Why should the school tell legal aged adults what to do, especially when more than 60% of college campuses in New York alone allow smoking on their campuses? Now if students are under 18 then the policy is completely understandable but most college kids are likely to be over 18. What gives? The 3 main points about why Binghamton University is tobacco free are as follows: second hand smoke affects everyone around; cigarette buds are likely to be littered around the campus; cigarette buds themselves are not biodegradable.
The first two notes I would like to make is that even though campus is supposed to be “tobacco free” I constantly see cigarette buds on the ground outside of buildings. The second is that I not only see students vaping but faculty members have their own vape pens and JUULs that they use. So clearly the policy is not working. My proposal would be to have designated smoking areas around the school, somewhat away from main walking paths, that have smokers stations that people can smoke and drop their buds into. In fact upon researching this idea I came across something known as “Butt Huts” (ignore the stupid name for a minute). The idea is the same as mine but is actually a solution given by the SUNY Student Assembly themselves and implemented on several SUNY campuses to curb smoking issues. These “Butt Huts” (sounds like a prostitution ring) have been shown to decrease the waste around campus and are chosen locations by the campus. That means the campus can strategically place them wherever they feel that students can easily dispose of their butts. Not only that, but they reduce the threat of second hand smoke, which would be contained to one area away from other students who do not like smoking.
On the topic of second hand smoke, the media has exaggerated the actual deadliness of second hand smoke. According to the CDC, 2.5 million adults have died from second hand smoke that weren’t smokers since 1964. That is on average 46,000 deaths per year, which seems like a lot. However, alcohol-induced deaths makeup 88,000 deaths per year, which is almost twice as many deaths. In 2014 alone Influenza and Pneumonia killed over 55,000 people a year. So on the scale of deaths per year, second hand smoke is quite a small one. The biodegradability problem of the butts is a fantastic point. However, companies like Green Butt are working to develop biodegradable cigarette buds that will revolutionize the way cigarettes are made.
Now cigarettes are certainly addictive, but it’s the person who is smoking’s choice, not yours. If you think cigarettes are gross, that’s great! You shouldn’t be able, however, to put others down for making that choice to smoke. I sell cigarettes at my workplace. Every single person who buys that pack of cigarettes already knows the dangers of it (how the hell could they not?!). People are flooded with ads about how they are going to die from them 24/7 on TV, any place that sell cigarettes has signs plastered everywhere about the health effects, and the warnings are even written on the damn box. New York State spends over $3,000,000 each year in their anti tobacco crusade. Very clearly people know what they’re getting into when they light that first Marb.
However, cigarettes do provide some benefits. They reduce stress, they increase moods, and even increase concentration according to MentalHealth.org. Of course they have downsides, but so does everything in this world from eating too much to drinking too much water. So what I am asking is a call to the SUNY Binghamton faculty and students. Fight for your right to smoke safely, making students walk off campus to smoke is ridiculous especially when it is their personal choice to do it. By law you have the right to smoke so if you want to unwind after a hard class or a hard shift at work you should be able to go outside to a smoking area relax, unwind, and just have a cigar.