The fact that smoking is detrimental to one’s health is no secret — both smokers and non-smokers alike are aware of this. Public-service campaigns dedicated to spreading education about the dangers of smoking and tobacco are introduced in adolescence in the hopes that as children mature, they will not lose sight of the risks. Despite this, nearly 17 out of 100 American adults still smoke cigarettes, and more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.
At NYU, while smoking is prohibited in residence halls and academic buildings, clusters of cigarette smokers still tend to assemble around building entrances. This is true of most places around the city ever since the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act was passed in 2002, prohibiting smoking in workplaces and indoor recreational venues such as bars and restaurants. While the SFAA and similar legislation across the state have drastically reduced places where it is acceptable to smoke, the dangers of smoking continue to be a part of everyday life. Pedestrians — or, say, NYU students walking past Weinstein or Bobst — continue to be confronted by toxic hazes of smoke as they walk to school or work. And although a 2011 law banned smoking in NYC parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas, a walk through Washington Square Park on a crowded day would suggest that this law is rarely enforced.
College and high-school students can be easily be pressured to smoke due to a number of factors including peer influence and tobacco lobbying firms that work to normalize this behavior. Many college students who smoke socially reject the label of smoker, as they plan to quit sometime around graduation, a plan which, unsurprisingly, is rarely successful. The disappointing fact is that soaring tobacco prices and more public health information than any other time in history are simply not strong enough deterrents for to stop students from trying it. This is why, as a community here at NYU and as a society at large, we need to be working harder to curb smoking and the health risks they present. Similar universities nationwide have enacted smoke-free campus regulations. Although the spread-out nature of NYU’s campus makes such an effort difficult, it can be done if enough people support it. NYU has been trying to curb the student smoking epidemic, but that unfortunately does not mean that people will abide by the university’s guidelines.
Approximately 12,000 NYC residents die from smoking related causes each year. While people have the right to do whatever they choose to their body, this right does not extend to other people’s bodies. NYU, NYC and the rest of the world need to look at smoking for what it is — a public health crisis — and act accordingly.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, November 7th print edition. Email Annie Cohen at [email protected]