Say Yes to the Smoke-Free Campus Referendum

Say Yes to the Smoke-Free Campus Referendum


The conversation about the pros and cons of smoking on campus has occurred for years. Now is the time to move toward a healthier campus for all students, faculty, employees, and visitors by voting agree on the Dec. 1 GUSA referendum. Students will vote whether or not to have a smoke-free and tobacco-free campus. Voters have the choice of “yay,” “nay,” or “no preference/undecided.”

Although smoking is a legal act for people over 18 years of age, there is an overwhelming agreement that smoking causes adverse health outcomes for the smoker and those around them. The movement towards a smoke-free campus does not require anyone to stop smoking if they choose not to. What it will do is make the air on campus cleaner for everyone.

Secondhand smoke is a very serious consequence for the non-smoker who deliberately chooses to abstain from smoking. The American Lung Association estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths each year. Even outside, nearby smokers expose the non-smoker to fumes emitted from a cigarette. The non-smoker has no choice but to inhale the contaminated air or move to a different area. This exposure to carcinogens causes preventable diseases such as coronary heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory complications like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

As a 2010 Journal of Community Health article states, it becomes harder for your heart to pump blood within 5 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure. After 25 minutes, clots of fat and cells start to build up in your arteries, increasing the chances of stroke or heart attack. After 2 hours, potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms develop. The article concludes by stating that outdoor exposure to secondhand smoke does in fact present health risks.

According to the American Cancer Association, secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 42,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are current non-smokers. It also causes 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults, and worsens asthma-related problems in up to 1 million asthmatic children each year. The American Cancer Society estimates that the cost of extra medical care, illness, and death caused by exposure from secondhand smoke is over $10 billion annually. Currently, research and treatment for the type of cancers that are a result of both first and second hand smoke are part of the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative that is headed by Vice President Biden. And in our neighboring smoke/tobacco free medical campus, scientists are actively researching treatments and preventatives for such cancers. Should we not participate in this worthwhile endeavor by promoting healthy lifestyles on our campus?

While some think it sufficient to continue with our current limited smoking designated areas, college creates crucial habits that will likely become life long lifestyles. During these years, many students begin smoking, quit smoking, or cement a life dependent on smoking. Why not facilitate the decision to live a life free of cigarettes?

We are a community, therefore we should promote the health of our entire population. The college campus is a specific, special environment that, while considering individual behaviors, must be concerned for the common good of all its residents. As a collective, we can help all students adopt a positive and healthy lifestyle.

The change will be difficult for some.  We must all acknowledge this and then work to make the transition as painless as possible. This will require the university administration to step up and lead the way with clear and concise communication toward the ultimate goal. They will need to present a strong implementation plan that includes increased messaging and treatment for those who wish to pursue cessation. As a campus we must work together for the benefit of the entire Georgetown University community. Take the first step and vote for a smoke free campus on Dec. 1.

Mac Williams is a senior in the NHS.

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