Second hand smoking known to be harmful, at SEU it’s impossible to avoid

A Nov. 12 report from The New York Times announced the suggestion of a new smoking ban in public housing. The ban would extend upon earlier restrictions that have been in place since 2009, but have met some resistance.

Tenants who are against the ban say that the ban infringes on their freedom to make life choices, which makes me wonder how far individuals can control their own lives before they’re literally killing themselves.

First of all, most of the people who are addicted to smoking started at a young age and became addicted over time. A CNN report notes that tobacco companies spent $8.37 billion to promote their products.The same news article cites multiple experts who agree that such a process begins at a young age and by the time most people want to quit due to the effects, they’re already addicted and feel harder withdrawal effects than those experienced by former cocaine addicts.

Of course, if we think this is only about the livelihood of those people, it may not matter. After all, it is in fact their life and if they want to throw it away, so be it. 

However, consider that such a line of reasoning would also enable suicide and euthanasia, and while anyone can argue for those things, they all have an effect on the people around them.

This is also about the property and the people around those who smoke, mainly other residents and those under care of those who smoke. 

The other reason mentioned in The New York Times article is that it damages the property, and it is a given that public housing does not belong to the tenants but the government. This means that taxpayer dollars are being eaten away to feed the costs of smoking, for which hotels would charge hundreds of dollars for even the first offense.

Other residents also have to deal with effects of secondhand smoke. The American Cancer Society reports that secondhand smoke increases a non-smoker’s chance of getting lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. They reported no safe level of exposure and that all levels are harmful as well as a myriad of different health issues that have known relations to secondhand smoke.

So not only are the children whose parents are smokers at risk, but neighbors potentially also are at risk. If this is justified, is freedom then allowed to reign so that it restricts others’ freedom and livelihood?

Those at St. Edward’s University may be reminded of an eerily similar instance as well. Although the city of Austin has a smoking ordinance that prevents smoking 15 feet away from any building, the very layout of the school runs counter to that. 

Even if we only include the doors, ash trays have been set less than 15 feet away near both Ragsdale Hall and the Trustee building, and the smoking area near the library may be just on the cusp of the ordinance, but non-smokers passing by are still being harmed. Even in residence halls like Teresa Hall, it is hard not to inhale at least some cigarette smoke. 

Perhaps vaping is the solution to the smoking problem on campus, but tests have rarely been conducted meaning that their safety is unproven.