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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Free to make your own choices? Stick that in your pipe and smoke it

Take a drag on this: Tempe Normal School is attempting to pass a ban on smoking because, apparently, it’s not normal (smoking, that is).

The Arizona State University Health and Counseling Student Action Committee is attempting to pass a referendum in the Undergraduate Student Council that would recommend a ban on all tobacco products on ASU’s Tempe campus.

According to a March 2 article in the East Valley Tribune, “”HCSAC has spoken to ASU President Michael Crow about the issue, and he recommended the group submit a referendum … The students have collected more than 3,500 signatures from classmates, faculty and visitors to support the policy.””

According to the 414-member Facebook fan page “”ASU Students for a Smoke/Tobacco Free Campus,”” the group hopes “”to serve as a means for ASU students to unite against the negative health effects and the violation of personal space caused by second hand smoke. HCSAC is working on behalf of all ASU students to create a healthier campus environment by lobbying student government and administration to take action against our nations leading cause of death.””

It’s true that these are not UA students, but both the argument and the precedent here are more harmful to society than a few accidental whiffs of tobacco smoke. On the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is not even listed in the top ten causes of death. And no matter how many control-freaks and brown-nosers would like it to be different, Americans still have the right to be unhealthy if they choose.

In a campus environment characterized by copious amounts of cirrhosis-causing alcohol, hours spent on adipose-collecting Internet and constant exposure to skin cancer-causing sunshine, these students should not be allowed to limit the liberty of all in their “”personal space”” and convenience.

According to an article in the State Press (“”USG send tobacco-free bill back to committee,”” March 24), “”the bill is trying to help smokers quit smoking.”” This is a noble enough goal, but it ignores an important-if-uncomfortable aspect of living in a society with other, free-willed people: Americans have the right to be unhealthy. The choice to smoke — just like the choice to drink alcohol or eat fatty foods or subject oneself to extended sun exposure for aesthetic purposes — is and should remain a choice of the individual.

Perhaps most tumor-causing and teeth-staining about this group’s smelly, puking insistence on ostensibly saving people from their own free will is this rationale: quoted in the East Valley Tribune article, HCSAC member Courtney Roake said, “”We want to inform students that smoking is not the social norm.”” Far more absurd than the desire to promote healthy lifestyles for ASU students is this assertion that activities that are not “”normal”” should not only be marginalized, as smokers have been, but universally banned.

How does this group define social mores? Is everything that makes one cough when one walks by automatically not normal? Should any activity that might be harmful to the person who chooses to engage in that activity automatically be vilified? No.

Many activities beyond smoking and many, many distinctions beyond “”smoker”” are not considered social norms. Activities that are not the social norm are protected by the laws of this country and should be respected by all members of society, especially those who claim to work to “”create a healthier campus environment.”” Homosexuality is not as yet widely considered a “”social norm.”” Does that mean it should be banned? Differences in race, creed, religion, political leanings and health choices should be protected and promoted.

The smoke is in the air on this issue: As of March 24, the Undergraduate Student Government has sent the bill back to the Senate University Affairs committee for further investigation and will be reconsidered “”at a future meeting.”” The counter-Facebook group has nearly triple the number of members as the pro-ban group. ASU may actually do something right in taking down this motion. Before those “”healthy”” Sun Devils go pell-mell making the Pall-Malls illegal, ASU students and every citizen should consider what it means to be normal and whether a people’s right to make their own decisions should be protected.

— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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