Opinon: Don’t forget about cigarettes

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Marijuana has been in the news a lot
lately. The question of legalization has been going back and forth
for a while, and it seems like those in favor are winning the overall debate. The conversation will continue, and, even if the process is
successful, it will likely drag out for years as legalization works its
way through various governments and agencies.

Unfortunately, all the
talk about marijuana seems to have supplanted another subject that
still needs discussion. That subject is cigarettes.

Cigarettes have never been illegal the way marijuana currently is. However, since their adverse health effects came to light decades ago, there have been numerous efforts to curb their use, especially in recent years. It makes sense that some local and state governments have started regulating their use more closely, since secondhand smoke is toxic to the user and people around them. At the same time, smoking rates have continued to decline. In an article published by Gallup, senior editor Lydia Saad claims that “Since the start of the 2000s, smoking has fallen nine percentage points among 18- to 29-year-olds — from 34% in 2001-2005 to 25% in 2011-2012. Overall, the rates have steadily decreased from a high of 45 percent of the adult population in the 1950s to approximately 20 percent today.

But in many places, including K-State, smoking in public is still allowed. Some restrictions have been put in place, such as bans on smoking in school buildings, or within 30 feet of a door to one. The problem with the latter is that 30 feet is often not enough. Walk ways are built in a way that mean students often must pass through an area where people could be, and often are, smoking. The fact that 30 feet from the door also describes the location of many benches and rest areas on campus means that, to use one, students may encounter smoke while relaxing. K-State regulation also says nothing for students who smoke while walking to classes, often forcing those behind them to keep their distance or hold their breath.

Breathing in a puff of smoke while walking behind a smoker isn’t fun. Sometimes, the curt apology from those who notice does little to stem the a coughing fit. Nor does it change the fact that someone who doesn’t actively indulge in such an unhealthy habit is unwillingly dosed with the same toxic cocktail as the person smoking. It’s akin to bumping into a stumbling drunk, though at least the drunk doesn’t spit alcohol in others’ faces.

And much like the drunk, smokers occasionally leave a trail behind them. Cigarette butts are often crushed underfoot and left carelessly behind, if not placed in one of the unsightly fixtures spread across campus. Another residue cigarettes leave behind is the nauseating odor that often clings to the clothes of regular smokers, an odor that can be especially unpleasant in the close quarters of a classroom.

In the currently popular shadow of marijuana, we are forgetting about the issue of cigarette smoking. While marijuana is definitely a topic that needs to be discussed, if recent political stirrings are any indication, it will be resolved, eventually. The issue of cigarette smoking in a public setting deserves the same kind of attention; it’s time for organizations and K-State to take concrete steps toward making progress.

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