Isolating smokers was a good idea — and necessary

One of my favorite things about this university is the way that it prioritizes its students’ health. In particular, there are addiction programs available for students through the campus Health Services office in Passan Hall. They offer cessation aids and counseling for many different forms of addiction, including controlled substances.

Unfortunately, they did not have anything to help me; last year, when my addiction left me tired and with a persistent cough, there was not anything they could do.

What was I addicted to? Air. Oxygen – the good stuff. See, I have asthma, and getting enough air is just a necessity. They do not make albuterol gum so I do not start wheezing, or oxygen patches to keep the cough at bay. Unfortunately, the university just does not prioritize my addiction to clean air, possibly because air is necessary for all mammals to live.

Due to the lack of smoking regulations on campus, I spent the entirety of last year coughing through classes, study sessions, and even when I was trying to sleep. In many situations I had no choice but to walk through clouds of smoke while entering and exiting certain buildings to attend classes.

Not only is cigarette smoke a trigger for my asthma, I am allergic to it, and I am not the only one. Cigarette smoke is a very common irritant, especially among people with seasonal/environmental allergies – about 30-40% of the population. Asthma is as common as 1 in 12.

Smokers sidling up to building entrances and exits literally made me sick. Ask my mother, or my doctor, or my nebulizer, which I had to pull out of storage for the first time in years. So you can imagine my frustration when I see someone complain that the new policy is unfair.

Smoking risks were written on the pavement in chalk? What a childish thing to do. Kind of like insisting your dangerous habit get in the way of other people breathing. Forgive me if I don’t care as much about smokers being “isolated” on campus – I will always prioritize respiratory health over someone’s feelings.

So yes, walking past a cloud of cigarette smoke will cause an adverse reaction. Within seconds of inhaling secondhand smoke, I start coughing; within minutes I have a headache that will last most likely for the rest of the day.

Do not get me wrong – I have friends who smoke; this isn’t a personal attack. I’m going to be honest. If it were up to me, there wouldn’t be smoking on campus at all. There is no such thing as a cessation aid for a respiratory disorder, and I certainly did not pick up asthma because I thought lying in a hospital bed with a nasal cannula looked cool.

Sure, I think now (with Wilkes’ new cessation program) would be a great time to quit, but you can smoke if you want to. Just do not do it near me.