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Smoker discrimination is ridiculous

By Freesia Singngam
On January 23, 2009

First, they got hit with an additional tax. Then, they were shunned when the government placed a ban inside all public buildings. Now, some of them are suffering a blow on the university level.

Smokers at Mitchell College in New London received some bad news when they returned to school after winter break: smoking has been banned on their main campus, and their administration hopes to make the entire college smoke-free in two years.

The smoking ban has been in place since 2003, The (New London) Day reported, but it is only now beginning to be enforced. For now, students can smoke at least 50 feet away from their dorm buildings, the Day reported. While Mitchell College is a private institution and has the power to enforce such restrictions, the fact remains that smoking is legal, and smokers have felt the assault from new restrictions for several years now.

Smoking has become increasingly taboo in our society, and the discrimination against it keeps getting worse with more bans. Smokers' problems didn't stop when higher taxes were placed on cigarettes to discourage smoking and raise revenue, and they don't end with smoking bans in public buildings and places where smoking had become the norm, like restaurants and bars. Smokers often find themselves hiding their cigarettes from friends and family, not taking a puff when someone walks by and airing out their cars in the cold so they don't smell like smoke when they go somewhere.

Everyone knows the dangerous health effects of smoking, and it makes sense to ban smoking inside buildings, where non-smokers can be affected by second-hand smoke. However, when it comes down to it, it's the smoker's decision to smoke, and if they are willing to go outside to do it, even in frigid temperatures, they should have the right to.

Cigarettes are legal, and anyone over 18 can buy them. Especially on college campuses, the majority of college students and most likely all college faculty members are of age to buy cigarettes. The fact is, smokers are still people just like everyone else, and banning them from too many places, especially when those places are outdoors and away from building entrances, just feels wrong.

Also, smoking is addictive. It's not easy to quit smoking, so the habit of smoking becomes a part of a smoker's life. It's not fair to discriminate against someone because of that.

Mitchell isn't the first college to try to go "smoke-free." Several other colleges and universities, such as California State University, Fresno and Maria College in Albany, N.Y., are already virtually "smoke-free," with a few designated areas for smokers. Others have basic smoking restrictions because of state law. In 2003, Connecticut state law banned smoking in university-owned housing at public colleges and universities, so UConn doesn't allow smoking in any building.

Don't get me wrong; many smoking bans are justified because of the effects of secondhand smoke and the problem of getting the smell out of clothing and furniture. I just think smokers have it pretty rough already, and this smoking ban at a New London college hits close to home for those here at UConn. There are already so many rules directed at smokers, and they could probably use a break.

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