Harder and harder to breathe

The first thing I think when I get off the bus in the morning is how beautiful our campus is. No, seriously. It’s something my friends from other universities always comment on and, as a Londoner away from the city; I always feel I can breathe easier here.

Except when I am approaching the library bridge, I have to hold my breath. And I continue to hold my breath until I reach the miscellaneous B rooms of the science concourse. I’m no champion swimmer if that’s what you’re thinking but this practice has become quite commonplace

for me.

Now I don’t even like the smell of smoke. My immediate reflex is to start coughing at the slightest whiff of it. My boyfriend, a regular smoker, can testify to this. I don’t condemn smokers as some of the people I love most are victims of the habit but this doesn’t mean I want to buy into second hand smoking.

Unfortunately, it seems that many of the non-smoking students and I have no choice. Areas such as the entrances to the library, the science concourse, University House and the Ramphal building seem to be the regular haunts of the smoking student. These coincide with the most popular student routes around campus. “It seems to always be at bottle-neck areas,” says a third year MORSE student. “You have no choice but to walk through them.”

With the already seemingly ‘tragic state’ of student health, it is becoming more apparent that passive smoking must be added to the list. With our likely poor diets, it’s a wonder why we don’t already have the increasing worry of heart disease or stroke without adding lung cancer to the mix.

To add oil to the fire, passive smoking is linked to neurological disorders such as depression, sleeplessness, impaired thinking and clouded consciousness; probably not the best factors to affect a student. “The thing is people just walk past [smokers] and think it’s a mild irritation everyday but they never thing of the effects it could be having on them,” says a third year Business School student. “They don’t realise they have the right to say they’re not happy with the situation.”

The best plan of action for the University and/or Students’ Union may be to do what a lot of corporate businesses already do and enforce some sort of rule which permits smokers only to smoke at least a small distance away from entrances and exits to campus buildings. Even Simon Clark, director of FOREST (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) is quoted saying, “What’s wrong with a choice of designated smoking areas (or better ventilation) that allow people to smoke without bothering non-smokers?”

Now I’m not naïve. I know that rules don’t always work. Only last week, I was sitting on a coach in Victoria station, witnessing 5 or 6 people (one an employee of the coach company) smoking by a sign which read ‘Smoking is not permitted in any part of this station … Those found in violation will be prosecuted.’ But even so, is it worth ignoring the situation? Many students have voiced similar opinions to mine but haven’t spoken up publicly. Maybe it’s time we do.

Comments (9)

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