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Is smoking a privilege or a right?

Before Isaac set his course to drench North Mississippi, there was supposed to be a protest of the University’s new smoking ban in the Grove today. Smokers and nonsmokers alike have RSVPed to the facebook event, which states in the description that “[t]his isn’t about smokers versus non smokers. It’s about freedom and personal responsibility.”
I can see that argument. This is America, and while freedoms of all sorts are slipping away from us at an alarming rate (I’m looking at you, PATRIOT Act, NDAA and SOPA/PIPA) we’ve still got the opportunity to smoke a cigarette, after we pay the exorbitant taxes on them, of course. There are laws about where people can smoke and how far away from doors they have to be. Smokers have largely been forced to go outside and huddle in a far off corner if they want to engage in their vices. But really, I’m okay with that. When you’re doing something that has a possibility to negatively affect passersby’s health, it makes sense to put you in a corner away from passersby. It does not, however, make sense to tell you that you can’t smoke anymore, which is exactly what has been done.
The ASB and the administration have gone about this absolutely the wrong way. Never did the students, staff or faculty at large get the chance to vote on such a measure. Before the ban, we had smoking areas. People largely smoked in the smoking areas--which were poorly labeled and even more poorly enforced--but some folks didn’t, and as often happens, they were the ones on whom anti-smokers chose to focus.
The next logical step would be to increase visibility of the smoking areas, both so that the smokers knew where to go and so that nonsmokers who were particularly opposed to cigarette smoke would be able to take an alternate route to class. Additionally, the existing fines for smoking outside of the smoking areas could have been enforced.  Between UPD and Cobra, the manpower was there. But for some reason, the logical thought pattern to the ASB and the administration was to see that a small percentage of people were not abiding by the existing rules and then decide to just place an outright ban on smoking instead of simply enforcing existing rules.
Of course, looking at this as a skeptic, one will recognize that the University profits from this in the form of a PR boost and the revenues from the fines on those who will continue to smoke on campus. Maybe the tuition hikes and increase in price for the parking decals just weren’t plugging the holes in their budget. But I digress.
This smoking ban is bad. It doesn’t just affect the guys coming from Fraternity Row after lunch with a trail of cigarette smoke behind them, who have largely (and quite unofficially) been identified as the individuals who were not following the smoking area rules. This affects all the students, including the ones who are required to live on campus their freshman year. This affects all of the faculty and staff. This affects our alumni, who pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to the University for season tickets each year. This affects our guests, who travel to the University for football, guest speaking opportunities and a number of other occasions every semester. This affects everyone.
I understand that smoking kills. I know that it is dangerous and could even be dangerous to people that don’t smoke but are around smoke. Smoking is bad, and if you do it long enough, it’s more than likely going to kill you. That’s a really good reason for me not to smoke. It’s a terrible reason for me to stop you from doing it. The smoking areas were a good compromise; if you wanted to smoke, you were to stay in areas that nonsmokers could easily avoid. Going back to that and actually attempting to enforce the rules is a perfect way to respect personal freedoms and allow people to protect their good health.

Alexandra Williamson is an accountancy senior from Frisco, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @alyxwi.