It’s a Tuesday afternoon in early September, and I am late to choir again. I’m rushing down the hill to the music building, barely pausing to watch the leaves start to change color. Suddenly, I am struck by a smell that reminds me of home, my dad, and especially my brother. I turn my head, and sure enough, someone is on his way back up the hill, with a cigarette in hand. I could reprimand him for polluting what’s left of the fresh air, but I let him go on his way, because I believe that smokers are people too.
Now, I know that there are innumerous health risks involved with smoking. I also know that lung disease runs in my family, which is why I never plan to start. But I am fairly positive that people that smoke have already been reminded of this fact, and they would rather not be bothered about it again. The truth is that a lot of people really don’t care about living comfortably into old age if it means denying themselves pleasure in the present day.
According to the federal government, anyone at least 18 years old can choose to smoke if they wish. However, the University of Iowa has taken it upon itself to make that decision for us. Recently here, they have passed a partial ban on smoking on campus. No smoking is allowed within 25 feet of any entrance, which save for the middle of a few streets and the wooded hill towards the music building, there is very little space left available to them. Now, I know that I am in no way an expert in anything, one of the first things you learn your freshman year of college is that you aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are, but I can still recognize discrimination when I see it. If people are not allowed to be in certain places because of choices they make about their lifestyle, that should be considered discrimination, but here it is called a necessary precaution for the non-smokers on campus. The rights of the non-smokers that refuse to share space with anyone else seem to take precedence.
Never having conducted extensive medical research, and not being old enough to have ever done a twenty year study, I can’t refute any of the medical reports that say secondhand smoke can be just as deadly as smoking itself. However, I am fairly certain that the amount of smoke in a single cigarette smoked outside a building is not going to be strong enough to give diseases to any innocent bystanders.
I was always raised to believe that everyone has the right to make their own choices in life. I was also raised to respect the wishes of others; even if it is something I don’t want for myself, I should be able to let them do as they please. This is why I believe that smokers, too, have rights.
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