Letter to the Editor: Non-smokers shouldn’t have to suffer others’ choices

We would like to respond to the column in the Feb. 18 edition of The Scout, “Banning smoking in outdoor areas is absurd, unfair to smokers.”  We feel it is important to shed light on the opposite view – one that supports smoke-free areas.

The editorial mentioned the rights of the smokers and how banning smoking from these areas would be an infringement of their individual rights.  We would like to draw a comparison between the activities of drinking and smoking. Both involve risks to the individuals but the law supports freedom to use. However, when it comes to how these behaviors affect the public, the standards are different.

For example, we are prohibited from drinking and driving in order to reduce our risk of endangering those around us. Creating smoke free areas is similar in that it permits smokers to smoke as they please, but reduces the risk of them endangering those around them. Just as preventing drinkers from driving while intoxicated is in the best interest of the general public, creating smoke free areas that prevent smokers from congesting the air is also in the best interest of the general public.

The column described a scenario in which a smoker joins a non-smoker on a bench, which bothers the non-smoker. It was suggested the non-smoker find another bench.  We, however, disagree with the solution.  The non-smoker is not negatively impacting the smoker, but the smoker is possibly negatively affecting the non-smoker’s health.  Would anyone suggest that a sober driver needs to find another street to drive on in order avoid the drunk driver?  We would hope not.

Furthermore, we face many restrictions every day. Spatially, we are restricted from trespassing on private property. Even our constitutional freedom of speech is limited. And although a good dare or prank may force us, we do not have the right to be naked in public.  The list goes on.

The editorial did propose some alternatives, which we would also like to address. The column recommended designated smoking areas.  This could be a valid choice, as it would allow smokers a place to smoke, while also making it known where non-smokers should avoid.  But the suggestion that we just need to add ashtrays is absurd. There is no guarantee smokers would use them, not to mention the astronomical costs associated with buying, installing  and maintaining them. There are many receptacles and trash cans available now all across the U.S., yet cigarettes continue to be the most littered item in the nation (Keep America Beautiful, www.kab.org).

Only 4 percent of Bradley students are daily smokers (according to the National College Health Assessment, April 2009) and about 10 percent are occasional smokers.  Wouldn’t it be beneficial for Bradley’s campus to become smoke-free too, in order to maintain a healthy environment for the 86 percent of students who do not smoke?

If you want to continue the discussion about Bradley’s campus going smoke-free, find us on Facebook and join the group “Friends of SONOR” or e-mail sonor@bradley.edu.

Thank you for your time,

Ken Sanderman and Allison Bonicontro
Sonor