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Volume 68, Isssue 106, Friday, February 28, 2003

Opinion

Smoking lounges for cleaner air

Monica Granger
Guest Columnist

As reported in Thursday's paper ("SGA plan wants smokers out of the way"), the Student Government Association is deliberating on how to enforce an ordinance from Houston's health code that bans smoking within 25 feet of entryways. I would like to point out several difficulties that accompany this problem.

First, strict enforcement may replace a health risk with an even greater danger. Smokers already have an increased risk of contracting air-borne infections. As mentioned in the dialogue at the SGA meeting, smokers have a propensity to huddle near doorways for warmth. It is almost certain that the University would see an increase in viral or bacterial infections if smokers were exiled into the cold, wet weather. I would also like to add that Houston is still recovering from its last bout with these pathogens.

Second, nicotine is a stimulant ­ much like the caffeine college students are so fond of. I believe it to be cruel (not so unusual these days) to persecute and discriminate against a group of people who choose smoking as their "morning pick-me-up."

Third, the studies on the effects of smoking should be called into question. The tobacco industry uses "scientific studies" to "prove" that smoking is not so bad, similarly, the government sponsors scientific studies to "prove" the preconceived ill-effects of smoking. Forces International delves into more detail regarding the methodology of these studies at www.forces.org.

Fourth, please allow me to propose that the burden for maintaining the health and safety of the individual should lie with the individual. Paint masks may be bought without undue financial burden on the purchaser at the nearest general store. If this is an unpalatable-or unfashionable-solution, please allow me to invite those who are concerned for their health to hold their breath until inside the building.

The solutions that have been proposed thus far are nothing more than one group of people attempting to force another to stop indulging in a perceived vice (this may have a familiar ring to advocates of medical and recreational marijuana).

Allow me to propose a better solution than further burdening those who choose to smoke. Give smokers a haven such as a lounge out of the unforgiving elements where they may indulge in their choice to smoke without burdening those who wish not to smell cigarette-smoke.

Finally, let me remind the student body that this is an issue and a responsibility that lies with the City of Houston. The City even provides a number to call if anyone is found violating the ordinance. The University has enough budget problems to worry with rather than haranguing smokers into quitting.

Monica Granger, a political science major and SGA senator, can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.
 

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