As of last week, OSU is a non-smoking campus. This does not mean certain areas are off-limits to smoking; this means the entire campus is off-limits to smokers. This is the law, and it will be enforced by the Department of Public Safety year-round, including game days. This is a good thing.
There are reams of evidence about the dangers of secondhand smoke—and not just for times when you’re cooped up in a bar in Wyoming or at the home of a friend who smokes. There is no shortage of data about the dangers of the poisons, toxins, gases, and particles found in secondhand smoke even in open areas like outside OSU’s library.
And, despite the fact that students regularly come into contact with car exhaust, BPA-laden plastic cups, and any number of other man-made environmental health hazards that won’t be banned, the smoking ban will improve campus public health by eliminating a known carcinogen.
And that’s the kicker. Smoking stops being a right when it infringes upon another’s well-being. Once it does that—and it has been proven to do that—smoking becomes a privilege, and that privilege has been revoked.
Deal with it.
That said, there are at least two things to respect about smoking, the lack of which may slightly impoverish OSU. Despite the fact that by smoking you’re supporting a lying, scheming industry that has made you suicidally addicted to its ridiculously profitable product; despite the fact that your lungs begin to resemble rotten carrion after a few years of smoking; and despite the fact that smokers construct any number of falsities, deceptions, and fatalistic declarations to justify their addiction, non-smokers can learn from smokers’ smoke-breaks and sense of community.
There is something wonderful and increasingly rare in a person putting everything down, stepping outside, kindling a small fire, and standing quietly alone, inhaling and exhaling, watching the falling rain. One of the few good things about smoking is that it dictates these momentary breaks from the pressure of college, from the unceasing and demanding distractions of the digital age. People who aren’t addicted to nicotine don’t often grant themselves these sorts of breaks.
The other enviable aspect of smoking is a unique community. Often enough a single smoker isn’t alone when he steps outside for a smoke. Smokers cluster together in camaraderie and bum smokes and ask for lighters, a unique democratic coming together of all walks of life, of people who would otherwise have no reason to stand in proximity and talk and flirt.
Does this mean we should continue to allow smoking on campus? Hell no. What it means is that we should all, smokers and non-smokers alike, adopt or strive to retain those things: to talk to strangers for no other reason than to converse, and to take a break in our harried, distracted lives and ground ourselves in a moment.