Letter to the Editor: Groups should not target one unhealthy habit

March 11, 2015

I love democracy. I have argued with my tea-party uncle on Facebook for years and just finished the new season of “House of Cards” in two days. Anyone that knows me understands my love for politics. I can relate to the need of advocating and fighting for things people believe in. The Royal Purple had a Letter to the Editor article in the March 4 edition that wrote about the work toward a tobacco-free campus. Although I appreciate an active and passionate democracy, I disagree with the coalition.

Their argument has its merits and is well intentioned. However, is it really that big of a deal to walk by a campus building and barely inhale the second-hand smoke of some stressed out college student, wondering how he is going to make it through his day? Let the person do something, which if he does it regularly, might kill him when he is 50, 70, maybe 30…who knows? But, it is his choice. We do not know what will kill us. I get the group’s purpose, but this is a matter of freedom. If we are free to drink alcohol, eat fast-food and have sex, why regulate smoking? In the United States, obesity causes 325,000 deaths per year—more than car accidents, drugs, alcohol and guns combined.  Therefore, a fast-food free campus would be just as reasonable, but just as silly.

Getting rid of smoking in buildings is something relatable because there is plenty of evidence displaying that second-hand smoke can kill. Where your freedom infringes on my freedom, a boundary should be established. If you’re making me breathe in something deadly, then it is bad. Fair enough, but it is ridiculous to make someone walk across Main Street so they can have a cigarette where other off-campus students will inevitably breathe it in. Do not tell me I cannot do something that has the same adverse health concerns as the Big Mac in your hand. You can advise me to intelligently wear a condom, but I do not have to. Before you know it, I may have fathered a child or may be serving as a host to a horrible virus…but it’s my choice.

Ultimately, if a tobacco-free campus group is telling me three billion dollars’ worth of healthcare funds are used for tobacco-related illness, what are the numbers for STI, obesity, and alcohol-related costs (Excluding the amount of money the justice system uses to respond to alcohol-related crime)? Back in 2007, we paid $117 billion in healthcare costs for obesity-related illnesses in the U.S.  Also a whopping $139 million dollars per year for STD related illness in Wisconsin. (This stat was from 1997; it is without a doubt higher now). Last, but not least, alcohol expenditures costs the nation about 22.5 billion dollars per year. If smoking doesn’t kill us, something else will. Grant it, we cannot drink and have sex on campus, but that is for obvious reasons. I am a beer-drinking, fast-food eating, sex-loving, cigarette-smoking American. Live and let live.

Connor Novack
Junior
Social Work Major

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