By Raoul Biron
Full disclosure: I smoke. Owning up to an expensive, smelly, and harmful habit can be difficult, but pride isn’t the drive behind addiction. While I don’t love relinquishing my mood, health, and wallet to something that makes you a pariah in many spots around the country, I enjoy taking a break, getting a coffee, and guaranteeing I can control my state of mind for a minute. I also know that my ability to smoke isn’t reserved to wherever or whenever.
People shouldn’t have to be around smoke if they don’t want to, but they will be. In public spaces, people will spit, cough, loudly speak on their cell phone, rip car exhausts, and blow clouds of smoke. While yellowed walls, airplanes filled with a dense cloud and restaurants with imbedded ashtrays should stay in the ‘90s, people should still be allowed to respectfully indulge in their own harmful habits.
On Nov. 22, UNH’s Student Senate is voting on a measure that would ban smoking on campus. Regardless of the ban passing or not, people will continue to smoke (or vape). If you were in the woods on campus in a snowstorm or walking down an empty road at 3 a.m., many students would be inclined to smoke something more prohibited than cigarettes.
On nights when vehicles and scooters swerve recklessly through campus and vomit gets tracked along the sidewalks, I’m constantly asked for a cigarette. Whether it’s someone weeping, stressed, or completely incoherent, the same people who passive aggressively cough at my smoke during the day will ask me for a smoke on a Thursday night. If I’ve got a spare, I’m usually happy to oblige. I’m also happy to walk away from anyone asking me not to smoke around them. I’m not happy paying a ticket for smoking somewhere between Main Street and the Peter T. Paul School (if that even counts as ‘on-campus’).
New Hampshire doesn’t have a public intoxication law. Instead, the state’s criminal justice system has compensated by focusing on and prosecuting vague town ordinance infringements and disorderly actions. Communities like Durham will always find a way to capitalize on drunk people, turning mischief into revenue. Something has to pay for signs telling students that “this is a family neighborhood,” and clearing the debris after some sports riot. Transportation has been turned into a steady revenue stream for the school as well. Rules for parking have changed from semester to semester in the past, letting the university capitalize further on students willing to pay thousands to attend. Cigarettes are being turned into the same thing. If the university gets $40 every time some kid in front of Hamilton Smith lights a cigarette, we’re allowing this to perpetuate.
In fact, I’m still not sure who the smoking prohibition would be targeting. Sure there are people who blow plumes of vapor in classrooms, but most students who smoke are acutely aware of the rules on campus. Keeping 20 feet of distance to a building is reasonable, and understood by the majority of us smokers. The students most impacted by this change in regulation are actually the ones paying the most to be here.
There are signs all over campus advertising that less than 10 percent of the student community smoke. Anti-smoking ads and campaigns generally aren’t effective—education is. Retroactively punishing adults willing to overpay for something negative won’t eradicate the problem, and neither will slapping tickets on hookahs and vaporizers around campus. Until the Nov. 22 vote and probably beyond, I’ll be lighting up a Camel.
Raoul Biron is a junior majoring in English/journalism.