Smoking is a habit that affects more people than just the smoker. The effects of second-hand smoke are well-documented, and it is unfair to inflict this upon others without their consent. For everyone arguing that smokers have a right to smoke if they wish to, there is the equal and opposite argument that everybody has the right to clean, fresh air in their home.
Exeter would set a great example by banning smoking in their college grounds, and other colleges should follow suit. With the ban on polluting vehicles set to come into effect in the next few years in Oxford city centre, it makes sense that colleges should be doing what they can on a smaller level to contribute towards a cleaner, greener city.
Those who argue that smoking can provide a coping mechanism for people with anxiety or other mental health issues are missing the point that banning smoking within college grounds does not stop people from smoking, it simply means that they do not do it in a way that makes an impact on other peoples’ lives and health. Even having designated smoking areas does not work – people have to walk past these areas to get to their rooms or tutorials, breathing in the fumes as they go.
At Brasenose, the smoking area on the college site was closed due to the smoke drifting into a student’s bedroom, making the room essentially uninhabitable, and this problem is likely to be present all over the city. Students should not have their health put at risk by other peoples’ life choices. The important issue here is that, yes, people should be free to smoke if they wish to, but not in such a way that it infringes on other peoples’ freedoms.
Banning smoking also sends a clear message against smoking and the negative health effects it causes. It is a personal choice, but we should be doing everything we can to steer people away from making that choice, and we definitely should be protecting other people from the negative health effects of smoking when they don’t smoke themselves.
While colleges are not public spaces, we should remember that they are home to many people, and having an area filling with toxic fumes will not make everybody feel at home there. Colleges are also a place of work for the many staff members, and the main reason for banning smoking in public places such as pubs was to protect the staff.
Exeter has taken the first steps to solving this issue, and it is now the turn of other colleges to do the same. Schools and hospitals ban smoking on their grounds. Why should colleges be any different?