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Smoking out support for the ban

I understand that it’s been a little while since the smoking ban has been in the news, but let us revisit it once more. I find it critical to point out a few more things that have failed to be addressed in this newspaper, and I’m going to start from square one: health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 443,000 people die prematurely from causes related to smoking or secondhand smoke. More importantly, 8.6 million people live with a serious, debilitating, life-shortening illness caused by smoking: heart disease, lung, throat, laryngeal, or mouth cancer, emphysema, or high blood pressure.
Cigarettes themselves aren’t exactly nutritious either. Among hundreds of other chemical additives, main ingredients of cigarettes are carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, acetone, butane, DDT, formaldehyde, and Freon. Carbon monoxide: a poisonous gas. Tar: used to make roads. Arsenic: rat poison. Hydrogen cyanide: used in gas chambers. Formaldehyde: dead body preservative. Well that’s certainly a lot to inhale.
Now that I’ve used scare tactics, let’s look at some ethical concerns of smoking.
I know most of us students were quite young when it was all going on, but in 1998, 46 states sued the crap out of the four major tobacco companies at the time, known as “Big Tobacco.” And the trials began in Mississippi; that’s a first we should be proud of. In 1994, State Attorney General and Ole Miss alumnus Mike Moore declared war on “Big Tobacco,” seeking reimbursement for tobacco-related health care costs that were drying up the state’s Medicaid funds and other medical programs that support smokers’ health.
The lawsuit originated because Moore and his team found out that the tobacco companies were hiding evidence that proved cigarettes were deadly products. In previous lawsuits, tobacco companies always said smoking-related illness was the fault of the individual — consumers knew that they were doing harm to themselves, so it’s not the company’s problem. But finally we, as citizens, as taxpayers, as contributors, were protected from bad companies who sold us bad products that burden and cripple society. “Big Tobacco” settled for $365.5 billion, agreed to tighter regulation and ended smoking advertisements to the youth (no more Joe Camel).
I personally feel that we should take some national pride in our state attorneys protecting the interests of the consumers.
These lawsuits illustrate the good power of government — taking an active role in ensuring that the country runs in the best and healthiest state.
So how can we continue to support these companies? Companies that knowingly sell death sentences? If you’re at all anti-corporations, taking up smoking is, honestly, illogical. Let’s not be corporate sellouts here. You’re only funding companies that sell you a psychologically and physiologically addictive product (what a great marketing scheme) that will inevitably kill you. And what’s worse, as you smoke more, these corporations rake in more money.
Since smoking rates are declining in the U.S. and other post-industrial nations (New Zealand’s on its way to becoming the first smoke-free country), tobacco companies are pouring money into marketing campaigns in developing nations, including those most populated — China, India, Russia and Bangladesh.
Do we really want to continue to support an industry that will overwhelm the globe even more with heart disease and cancer? With further illness and death that is the most easily preventable?
As Dean Richard Gershon of the Ole Miss Law School mentioned in conversation the other day, it’s inexcusable for individuals on this campus to pass off bad habits as civil liberties. Your actions as a smoker do not affect only you, but also each person you know — the other individuals contributing to your health care premiums, the others who pass by and inhale your secondhand smoke, and the others who depend upon you to be an active citizen.
Workers who smoke by and large get sicker because they have weaker immune systems. Sick workers means lost profit and productivity. From the social standpoint, a sicker population is less happy and just less healthy. Less healthy means less socially active, and as a result, our communities are weaker and tied down by corporate schemes.
I cannot think of a valid argument to support and allow smoking on this campus. The smoking ban is progressive legislation that this university needs to support.
At the same time, it is absolutely essential that we encourage and support cessation programs to help students, faculty and staff to move on from addiction.
With more than 826 100 percent smoke-free campuses nationwide, our school is heading in the right direction. This is not an issue of civil liberties; it is an issue of social responsibility.

Emma Willoughby is a junior sociology and liberal arts double major from South Haven, Mich.