Smoking causes one of many smells on campus

January 28, 2008 12:00 am0 comments

To the Editor:

Re: “Smoke Signals,” Editorial, Jan. 24

Recently an editorial against smoking was published in The Sun. The main points seemed to be that second-hand smoke is unhealthy and smells bad, smoking within 25 feet of Cornell buildings is against the rules and smokers should be strongly encouraged to quit.
I think that the health risks of passing through a cloud of smoke outside are quite minimal since human lungs are very good at removing sporadic contamination. Also, buses and other large vehicles have much higher emissions limits than cars, and these emissions are likely to be at least as unhealthy as outdoor cigarette smoke. Any argument against health dangers of outdoor second-hand smoke should also be applied to lowering allowed emission levels of large vehicles. With regards to the smell, there are many other negative externalities caused by personal choices that other people endure. Should people with bad body odor or halitosis be relegated to the back of classrooms? Should cell-phone use or loud popping of bubble gum only be permitted outdoors? The choice of which topics an argument (such as “it’s a negative externality”) is applied to should not be affected by personal biases.
To follow the rules, smoker must be at least 25 feet away from Cornell buildings. However, any attempt to increase enforcement of this rule will use up some of Cornell’s resources, and I believe these resources could be used elsewhere with much greater benefit to the Cornell community.
Finally, smoking is obviously unhealthy, and people wanting to quit should be encouraged and assisted. However, people cannot be forced to quit, and attempts to do so will probably be unproductive and cause resentment. Also, to be consistent, such attempts should be accompanied by attempts to reduce consumption of soda and greasy, unhealthy food, increase physical activity and study time, decrease binge drinking and environmental waste, require daily showers and oral cleansing and other attempts to force people to make healthy choices that don’t harm others.

Peter Samuelson grad