Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Keep Smoke to Yourself at GU

Friday, September 8, 2006

I have a cause but you won’t see me in Red Square any time soon. Not because I don’t want to convince you, but because I fear for my life. Instead, I choose to advocate from the safety of my well-circulated apartment room. No, I am not fearful that the recent wave of violent crime will strike campus midday. I am worried about a silent killer that evades the roving eyes of DPS. Secondhand smoke on campus is stripping nonsmokers of their right to clean air and healthy respiratory and circulatory systems and I would prefer to avoid exposure to toxic carcinogens while I explain why smoking should be banned within 25 feet of all campus buildings and in public gathering areas, such as Red Square and the Southwest Quad lawn. In the United States, we are able to enjoy a right to vote, speak freely and worship as we please. While I do agree that certain freedoms, such as the one I am exercising as I write this article, are worthwhile, typically harmless and oftentimes beneficial, American citizenship does not grant us permission to harm others while doing as we please. Smoking when in proximity to others causes them harm and decreases their quality of life. According to the American Heart Association, “Exposure to environmental tobacco smoking causes about 10 times as many deaths from heart and blood vessel diseases as it does from cancer.” In addition, exposure causes irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, along with coughing, while asthmatics can suffer attacks as a result of the pollution. One does not have to be in a close huddle with someone who is smoking to suffer the consequences. Smoke can rise and enter open windows of nearby buildings as well as ventilation systems. James Repace, a biophysicist with experience at the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, performed a study of air quality as a result of secondhand smoke for the University of Maryland at Baltimore. Repace found that smoke plumes do not simply disperse; in fact, the level of fine particulate air pollution around smokers puts the EPA Air Quality Index at unhealthy, or Code Red. Georgetown introduced a very watered-down denunciation of smoking on campus back in 1995 called “Appendix F – Smoking Policy.” Appendix F states, “Smoking is allowed in outdoor locations except those designated as no-smoking areas,” but an opposite approach is necessary to guarantee clean air for those nonsmokers who desire it – “Smoking is banned from all outdoor locations except those designated as smoking areas.” Georgetown would not be the first university to ban smoking in public areas. Emory already banned smoking within 20 feet of buildings back in 2003, while our neighbors at George Washington strongly discourage smoking on the sidewalks outside residence halls and classrooms. I am not calling on Georgetown to declare itself a smoke-free campus. While public health workers, epidemiologists and medical doctors may consider this the ideal solution, I understand that this might be too radical a step for the administration to take. Nevertheless, limiting smoking to designated areas would offer a compromise that both improves the wellbeing of nonsmokers and allows smokers to continue their habit. atthew A. Homyk is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

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