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Smokers’ Rights are my Own

I have never smoked a cigarette in my life. Really, I have never even had the desire. I understand and have researched the health related problems that are linked to smoking. In this same column a few weeks ago, I called for the Mississippi Legislature to raise the state cigarette tax.

Based on that, one would think that I would be in favor of a campus wide smoking ban. However, I am not.

Smokers’ rights are no different than yours and mine. They do not lose rights because of their choice to smoke, nor do we gain rights by our decision not to smoke. A ban on smoking infringes on the rights of smokers. Whether you are okay with smoking or not shouldn’t matter. What should matter is the fact that the administration is considering a policy that will target certain citizens and infringe on their rights.

Some people are in favor of the ban while some are opposed. However, most are indifferent, and as such they have remained quiet while “our” Associated Student Body (ASB) and the administration consider trampling on the rights on a sizable percentage of the University’s students, faculty, and staff.

The administration should realize that they do not have the authority to restrict such rights. Instead, they should focus on making smoking sections more accessible to smokers while enforcing the sections better.

The current smoking policy does not define the smoking sections very well. Thus, it is difficult to enforce the sections, and without enforcement tension builds between smokers and nonsmokers.

There should a smoking section that is within 100 yards of most academic buildings. This means that most buildings would be able to share smoking sections with one or more other buildings. By having a defined section, nonsmokers who wish to avoid a smoking area can plan accordingly. Everyone can live in harmony if we make the effort.

If we allow the administration to ban smoking on campus, what would keep them from banning other things? A famous quote concerning the Nazis is applicable to this situation:

 “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

The administration is going after the smokers. Are you going to speak out? What happens when the administration goes after something you enjoy?

 

Trenton Winford is a sophomore public policy leadership major from Madison.  Reach him at tgwinford@bellsouth.net.