Akron to be a smoke-free campus

Written by: Nicholas Nussen

Smokers have been banned from the indoors and are in the process of being booted from the outdoors — to what underground refuge, I cannot imagine.

(Perhaps they must sneak into abandoned lanes in the rain, wearing hats and trench coats, narrow their eyes, cup their hands and whisper in 1920s accents, “So look here, see, this is where we must smoke, see.”) But I do not mean to conjure up images of that nasty p-word, prohibition, from which we have learned so much.

Earlier this summer, the Ohio Board of Regents scored another victory for the immemorial crusade against vice by strongly advising Ohio public universities to consider banning all tobacco products — chew and snuff included. Clearly, unless chewers are spitting into bystanders’ mouths, the secondhand effects of tobacco are hardly the only concern.

Of course, passive smoking is nothing to sneeze (or cough) at — and I applaud the smoking ban in airplanes, offices and classrooms — but the main objection to outdoor smoking on campus, insofar as I can tell, is that it is a vulgar, unsightly and smelly practice, that its practitioners are raffish, undesirables, and that it pollutes the image of the campus — in short, that it is icky.

Of course, as a nonsmoker with no desire to suck down carcinogens, I am sensitive to the complaints of those who must breathe the infernal puffs of prematurely wrinkled, wannabe rebels.

I would be the first to celebrate an abrupt tectonic fissure or sinkhole that swallowed every smoker within 25 feet of the Bierce Library entrance. But I would not pass a resolution ordering their instant destruction. Sure, smokers are often an inconvenience, but so are hipsters and traveling preachers, and I would not prohibit hipsters from wearing “jorts” (skin-tight jeans severed into shorts) or preachers from spewing their mumbo-jumbo, no matter how refreshing such prohibitions would be.

There is something to be said, and not enough said, about the freedom to be inconvenienced. I would like to think that, in this great land of freedom — where the most persuasive ringmasters conduct the ongoing circus of government, where the latest crackpot iteration of creationism is trumpeted in schools, and where intelligence and freethinking are tantamount to elitist treason — we would by now have become accustomed to inconvenience, especially the inconvenience of accidentally inhaling a wisp of dissipating smoke in the open air.

I am astounded by the sudden anti-smoking health-consciousness exhibited by the righteous citizens of the gun-toting and obesity capital of the world, where to merely walk the streets and breathe the exhaust of cars and exhalations of industry is probably more hazardous and demoralizing.

I am convinced — although still awaiting the results of a study — that the self-inflicted damage done to the hearts and souls of those who rail against the habits of others far outweighs the damage of blackened lungs and rotted teeth.

The saints with lungs as clear as their consciences may live longer than the sinners, but I would wager that what they make up for in longevity they lose in empathy, humor and happiness. Yes, for the sake of our bodily health, the world would be a safer, more sanitary (if not sterile) place if we prohibited smoking — and all distasteful vices, for that matter. But I do not think it would be a better place.