Smoking is Allowed on Public Roads

Colette Bernard, Contributing Writer

Let’s start with the cold hard facts. Public Safety has confirmed: students can smoke cigarettes at the public roads that cross Stetson’s campus. This includes Woodland, Amelia, Pennsylvania, Bert Fish, etc. At times it can be iffy, because many of the sidewalks belong to Stetson. However, I have yet to meet a Public Safety officer who encouraged me to stand in the middle of the road. The curb, they tend to say, is best.

Despite this, I was recently verbally assaulted by a fellow student while smoking on Pennsylvania.

“Illegal!” she screeched. It took me a moment to realize she was screeching at me. “Illegal!” Instead of pointing out her misuse of the word “illegal” (even if I smoked at the very steps of the CUB, I would not be breaking a law in doing so, only a university policy), I informed her that I was at a public road and I could smoke there. She pointed to Rinker Field, the Edmunds Center, and Emily. “Campus, campus, campus!” she squealed. I again told her—public road.

“It’s disgusting,” she sneered. “You know that’s killing you, right?” She proceeded to pretend to cough at the tiny wisps of smoke floating her way and complained that secondhand smoke can kill. She tried to report me to Public Safety, but knowing I was not in the wrong, I left. I did, however, go to Public Safety to once again confirm what I know to be true: I can smoke at public roads.

I would like to take this time, my fellow Hatters, to inform you of proper etiquette: for the smoker, and the non-smoker.

On the part of the smoker: it is definitely rude to smoke around people. They may not enjoy the fumes. That is why I am usually several feet from anybody, and try to blow my smoke away from passersby. If I am politely asked to move a few feet away, I do so. I am aware of the danger of secondhand smoke. However, I would like to say that passing a smoker on the street every now and again will not kill you.

On the part of the non-smoker: for one thing, I hope you know you are not telling the smoker anything new when you tell them they are killing themselves. I have yet to see anyone besides an extremely young child hear the news that smoking kills and stand incredulously, mouth agape, murmuring, “Wait…really?” This brings me to my second point: if you decide to tell someone they are killing themselves, you are being extraordinarily rude. It is one thing to tell a family member, lovingly, that you are concerned for their health, but quite another to sneer disdainfully at a random stranger that they are killing themselves. You are not doing it out of genuine concern, but rather out of enjoyment in passing judgement from your supposedly lofty moral high ground.

The truth is, we all know it is bad for us. That is why so many of us try, innumerable times, most of the time unsuccessfully, to quit smoking. But the fact of the matter is that it is an addiction. Anyone can become addicted, and it is not because of a flaw in moral character. The addiction is what should be demonized, not the people themselves—and if you start stereotyping people just because they smoke, then not only are you being extremely disrespectful, but you are showing your ignorance: again, it is not the person, but the addiction. I have a high GPA, I love my friends and family, I work hard at my job—I am not some criminal just because I smoke. It is something I fell into despite knowing better.

According to the CDC, 36 million Americans fell into smoking addiction despite knowing better in 2015. Maybe it is because we live in such a small town that we can demonize the people in the street for smoking, because they seem so relatively few. Move to any major city, and you will see waiters as well as CEOs smoking in the street. It is the great equalizer.

I am not suggesting, in any way, that we ignore the health risks of smoking. We should definitely increase education and resources like quitting programs. But it is not your place to shame the person on the corner, especially when they are not breaking university policy, I may remind you. They know that it is bad for them and they will quit in their own time, for their own reasons. Change comes from within, not from outside pressure from complete strangers.

So next time, just keep your opinion to yourself and I will keep my smoking to myself.