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Smoke screen

By Sheila Bapat
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 10, 2000
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When Stacey Dietz lit up a Marlboro Light for the first time when she was fifteen, she probably didn't check to make sure she was 25 feet away from any buildings.

She also didn't imagine that there would be an unreasonable backlash against smoking when she went to college.

Dietz, a graphic design freshman, believes that the UA's proposed smoking ban is too extreme. The ban, which will take effect if UA President Peter Likins approves it, would prohibit smokers from lighting up unless they are 25 feet from any UA building.

"Cars cause fumes. What's next, they won't let cars within 25 feet of any building?" Dietz said. "Everyone would laugh at that idea. So why is it different for smoking?"

Clearly the nationwide trend against smoking has found its way to the UA. But while smoking is a filthy habit, sometimes the backlash against smokers is taken too far.

This time, the UA administration has gone too far in trying to keep smokers contained. It's as if once smokers light up, they are as dangerous as anthrax, and the only place to keep them so they won't infect the whole university is somewhere in the center of the mall.

ASUA has unanimously approved the proposal, though Executive Vice President Ben Graff admits that the officers-none of whom smoke-need to consult the student body about the decision.

"Honestly, I don't smoke, so I don't know how it affects smokers," Graff said. "So it's not wise for me to say 25 feet is fine."

Obviously, the proposal's intention is good. Improving public health by keeping more people away from second-hand smoke is a cause that the university should be leading.

Also, the proposal's clause that bans smoking from university vehicles is a good idea.

But while it is fair to protect the people's health by making sure they are not surrounded by smoke in certain public areas, it is ridiculous to designate a specific distance from which smokers must keep away from buildings.

Sitting in a restaurant filled with disgusting second-hand smoke is clearly harmful.

Sitting outside of Social Sciences to puff a few times before class doesn't harm anyone except the smoker.

Katie Easley, a friend of Dietz and an occasional smoker, pointed out that none of the ASUA officials smoke, and all of them agreed to support the resolution.

"It's a pretty big coincidence that none of them are smokers," she said. "They wouldn't understand."

The administration's 25-feet proposal also seems impossible to enforce.

"Even if it does pass, smokers aren't going to obey it," Dietz said. "Somehow, smokers and the people making the laws are going to have to find a middle ground."

Instead of banning smokers from certain areas, Campus Health, which supported the proposal in the beginning, should be doing more to get to the root of the problem and actually help people quit smoking.

Dietz began smoking at fifteen. She has tried to quit but feels the choice needs to be hers.

"I'm going to quit before the end of college," she said. "But I'm not ready yet. When I'm ready, I'll quit."

There are problems like teenage smoking that the 25-feet rule doesn't solve. Instead of passing a strange proposal that would require measuring tape to enforce, the university should work toward a more permanent solution to help smokers kick the habit.

Easley does not believe that smokers ought to be pitied, or given special privileges because they choose to smoke.

"Smokers shouldn't be suing tobacco companies, either," she said. "They've known it's bad for you for years. It all comes down to personal choice."

Smokers should not be pitied; nor should they be ostracized. They should be assisted in their effort to quit.

Keeping them 25 feet away from campus just doesn't cut it.

"When I heard about the ban, I thought, too bad, I'm still going to smoke," said Dietz. "It's not a threat to me, I'm still going to keep smoking. A ban won't stop an addiction."

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