Commentary: Smokers have rights too

Branden del Rio, News Editor

Not too long ago the University of La Verne adopted a policy which would further restrict where smokers could smoke. The policy, which will be enforced on Jan. 1, will restrict smokers to lighting up in parking lots.

As long as smokers are acting within the law they should not face poor treatment. Under California Law AB 846 smoking is prohibited 20 feet away from the entrance or exit of public buildings. Across the nation cities have enacted similar laws. The laws in place are strict enough; we do not need to push our ULV students and faculty into the parking lots where they can be hit by cars.

Recently it seems that smoker’s rights are being encroached on more frequently. The progress made in the last few decades has been extremely beneficial, and by no means am I claiming that we need to back track and allow smoking sections in public places such as restaurants. But new laws seem to be further stringent and do not seem to be making a lot of progress.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which was passed last June, requires the Food and Drug Administration to select nine new warnings for cigarette packages by June of next year.

The new warning must be on packages by October 2012. The packages will feature one of the nine warnings and an accompanying color image which will take up about 50 percent of the package. Currently each warning has two to three proposed images.

Proposed packages feature warnings such as “Warning: Cigarettes are addictive” along with a picture of a man smoking though a tracheostomy tube. Another reads “Warning: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risk to your health” and has an image of cigarettes being flushed down the toilet.

But it is questionable if these new packages will have any effect of smokers. Packages already carry the surgeon general’s warning and people still purchase them. Plus, most of the images being proposed are laughable.

If the FDA wishes to have any impact on abolishing smoking it should follow suit and do what the Australian and British governments have done.

Cigarette packages in these two countries have more serious images which are far more gruesome and one warning reads “Smoke contains benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide” which is far more adequate of a warning than the proposed “Warning: Smoking can kill you.”

These labels will not even be featured on other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and cigars, which can be equally as dangerous as cigarettes. Instead the FDA has chosen to target only cigarette smokers.

Many, if not all, people know that smoking has many negative side effects which can not only harm the smoker, but those who inhale second-hand smoke.

The reality is that smoking is a health hazard. It can increase the risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancers of the mouth and lungs and emphysema among others. It can also have teratogenic effects infants whose mother’s smoked.

That being said some may find smoking unattractive, gross or pointless. Even so, smokers are still people and they have rights.

They should not be treated poorly because of a decision they make. Especially a decision which is completely within the confines of the law.

We have all witnessed the scenario in which someone walks by a smoker and they pretend to choke and gag. They pretend like they are about to die because they came in contact with smoke. Secondhand smoke is dangerous and sure, some may find the smell of it unpleasant but that is no reason to be rude.

On a more personal note, I am friends with some smokers who are even so considerate as to exhale downwind; away from large groups of people. These people usually acknowledge that what they are doing is not healthy and advise others not to start smoking. So, why should these people be punished?

Branden del Rio, a sophomore English major, is news editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at

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