Home » Editorial, Opinion

Find smokers an on-campus option

12 February 2012 By Artie Garcia, Contributing Writer 22 Comments

“I just saw the smoking cops, dude,” a guy warned from his van, interrupting my nervous examination of the roads, sidewalks and doors around me. Paranoia comes with the territory — a college smoker, trapped in the dead center of a smoke- free campus, trying to conceal his cigarette, much like a pickpocket hides a wallet.

“Smoking is prohibited on all property owned, leased or operated by Towson University,” according to the Smoke-Free Campus Policy.

There is no exception to this rule. Those daring and ill-fated students caught smoking on campus are “subject to a $75 fine and progressive disciplinary procedures.” This has led to a wall of smokers put on display along Cross Campus Drive.

Forcing smokers to the campus perimeter is a clever way of enticing the smoker to quit. But more likely, it is the consequence of a policy written without the smoker in mind. A policy that could have included designated, on-campus smoking spots.

Hell, even Disney World has designated smoking spots. It still vexes me that this accommodation was overlooked, or flat-out ignored. So I decided to contact smokefree@towson.edu about the issue. I have yet to receive a response.

I understand the omission of smoking areas to an extent. It seems to me that smokers are better left out of breath and out of mind.

But much like the person caught in someone else’s smoke, I feel inconvenienced and overlooked, forced into hiding between buildings and under parking garages. Or worse, exiled to Smokers Row on Cross Campus Drive.

It’s a simple request: a place with an ashtray in a somewhat less inconvenient (but still isolated) location on campus. It will be clearly marked by bright signs and an ever-present cloud of smoke. Keep it away from building entrances and busy walkways, that way any nonsmoker unfortunate enough to wander into the tobacco cloud could only blame himself. The campus police can still penalize anyone caught smoking outside of this area.

I can’t be the only one risking disciplinary action in those short breaks between classes. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 20.1 percent of adults between 18 and 24 smoke. Based on this, I calculated that roughly 4,000 of the 21,464 Towson students smoke (not including faculty and staff).

This is a figure significantly larger than the headcount on Cross Campus Drive at any given moment. Given the choice — walk or hide — it seems that I’m not the only one choosing to sneak a drag.
The Smoke-Free Campus Policy hasn’t eliminated on-campus smoking, but pushed it into the shadows and slapped a fine on it. If the policy included designated smoking areas, I think the hidden (and often still intrusive) act would level out.

It wouldn’t eliminate the need to smoke on the streets around campus, but it would offer an alternative — a place where time-pressed smokers could breathe a deep, smoky sigh of relief.


  • a grad student said:

    I’m not sure why you think your addiction should be accommodated in anyway. We don’t allow alcoholics to drink where ever they choose.

    Considering how smokers acted when smoking was allowed on campus – right next to the entrances of buildings, in areas already designated no smoking zones – and considering how many people are ignoring the ban – I see someone smoking on campus at least once a day – you all have a lot of nerve complaining of anyone else being inconsiderate of your addiction.

  • Ivan said:

    The sad thing is–before the campus went smoke-free, there were designated smoking spots all over campus, students/faculty/staff didn’t adhere to those spots, so they penalized everyone. The other sad thing, there were meetings, that smoking students should have attended, before the campus went smoke-free, but the smoking students didn’t care to attend.

    As a smoker myself, I find it difficult to walk all the way to the street to have a smoke. I also find it unsafe. There have been two times, that I’ve personally witnessed, where cars hydroplaned on to the sidewalk, and almost hit me. Does the administration care about our safety, especially considering the the shitty drivers Maryland has, no. It is almost as if the “smoking task force” wants this.

    Yes, it is my choice to smoke. It is also the non-smokers choice to walk away from the smokers. We are outside, if they don’t want to inhale the smoke, take a few steps away. I try to be respectful of the non-smokers by taking walking away from from those individuals. It’s true, they shouldn’t have to inhale my smoke–but considering this is a “metropolitan” school, there are far worse things that the students are inhaling–that’s just my opinion. What’s next? No cars can be driven on campus? This school is horrible. If I wasn’t so close to graduating, I would transfer. The higher-ups of this campus are a joke.

    I may as well smoke in the elevator, the fines are only $25.

  • anonymous said:

    I have been fined by the SAFE workers. I was behind the media center and there was another girl there.. they came and she ran away. They didn’t do anything about her but were very rude to me. That’s $75 for putting less toxins in the air than all the cars in Towson every day..

  • a grad student said:

    If you are smoking in front of the building I need to enter, I can’t just walk away.

    If I’m walking to class and you walk up next to me, I can’t just walk away either, unless I want to go in a completely different direction to where I’m going.

    And even then, I wouldn’t be guaranteed clean air because I’ll likely just encounter someone else smoking.

    I have yet to meet a smoker that was truly considerate – you all say you are, but you really aren’t. Walking a couple of steps doesn’t really help, smoke wafts.

    As for the “it’s a metropolitan area”, please. Perhaps those of us that have a problem with smokers also have a problem with the massive amounts of pollution that are emitted by the cars around us and want to reduce restrictions and increase area quality. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    You want to waste your money and your health, go ahead. Just keep it away from others.

    Your right to swing your fists ends at my face.

  • Ivan said:

    @a grad student: I agree with you that most smokers are inconsiderate of non-smokers, that is true and not every smoker is like me. Never once have I blown smoke into another’s face, because I don’t want that to happen to me. If I see a runner coming towards me, I move out of the– so they don’t inhale my smoke, it’s rude, and I’m not a rude person.

    If Someone is walking behind me and my smoke goes in there way, I apologize and let them pass me. I’m not asking for a lot, just a safer place to smoke.

  • a grad student said:

    @Ivan, blowing smoke in someone’s face isn’t the only way to be rude about it. And it’s not like, when smoking was allowed, encountering cigarette smoke was a rare occurrence. You could not walk anywhere without encountering it. Most buildings had a couple of people smoking outside and there were always people standing around on the sidewalks between buildings. Normally, I’d encounter minimum 4 or 5 smokers everyday.

    If you’re on campus on a daily basis, that’s a lot of exposure.

    What you don’t seem to get is that stepping a couple of feet away does nothing because the smoke doesn’t just magically go away and it spreads. You are not better than any other smoker for moving a couple of feet, so stop pretending you are.

    You don’t have a right to smoke. Ergo, you don’t have a right to a “safe” place to smoke. You don’t like the places that have been designated, either stop smoking or deal with it.

    You choose to smoke. You know the issues surrounding it, both the health issues and the fact that a lot of people don’t want to be exposed to your smoke. Take responsibility for your choices.

    I’ve seen a number of pregnant women on campus. There are asthmatics, people with allergies and other lung conditions on campus as well.

    Their health trumps your addiction. Sorry, get over it.

  • Ivan said:

    You know grad student–I agree with a lot of your points, in many of the posts you comment on, but one common thing about you–you’re a douche who wants to pick fights with everyone. Im not saying I’m better than everyone else, nor do I pretend to be. If smoke happens to go into another persons face, and I apologize about it, I’m not criticized for smoking–people accept my apology. I’m not walking on campus smoking either, I adhere to the campus rules. My previous comment about smoking in the elevators was a joke.

    I don’t want to stand next to the road with shitty ass drivers, but I do, and you’re right, it is my choice to smoke–just like its your choice not to. I don’t need you to be concerned about my health either. As a smoker, I know the health issues that come with smoking…and I know the smoke “doesn’t magically disappear”…the only place that I find safe to smoke is near the Marriott parking lot across from the Marriott. If there were more places like that, I would be fine.

    I’m not asking for special privileges, just want to be away from the road. As for your attitude, grad student–who thinks he’s holier than thou art, I don’t need that either.

  • Roach said:

    The policy isn’t in place for health reasons. Towson got a hefty tax cut for being the (I believe, don’t quote me on this) first public university in MD to go smoke-free.
    I’ve argued against the policy when it was being proposed, but realized that it would do no good.
    So go ahead, keep bickering about the health effects all day. People are going to keep smoking on and off-campus. People are going to complain about it. The fact is, there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it except give someone a fine if they’re seen.

  • a grad student said:

    LOL, I don’t care about your health, I care about mine and people that are affected by your smoking.

    You don’t know if people accept your apology. People lie because they themselves don’t want to be rude. Besides, they know most smokers don’t care if they say it bothers them, so why bother?

    As for me being a douche, well, that’s all relative I suppose. You’re a douche too for thinking you have the right to smoke. You’re a douche to think your addiction should be accommodated in any way shape or form. You’re a douche because you don’t even realize you are asking for special privileges.

    I’m sure you’ll disagree with that assessment, but again, that’s all relative. We’ll just have to agree to disagree regarding that.

  • Fuck Grad Student said:

    If you are so concerned with breathing in shitty air, I ask you this. Do you feel the same way about students should blow farts in the middle of class? Should all students be forced to walk to Cross Campus just to blow a fart?

  • Moose said:

    Farts are natural. Tar and nicotine in your lungs is not.

  • Fuck Moose said:

    Nicotine is naturally produced in tobacco leaves, almost like how farts are naturally produced in my ass.

  • James said:

    As mentioned the university, had for a long time designated smoking spots. They were completely disrespected and ignored. Now people constantly complain that they wish they had them. I’ve even heard people defend why they were ignored before because “they were never enforced.” Honestly it’s a case of abusing one’s accommodations and having them taken away. The school did also have a point about the amount of cigarette butts that used to COVER this campus and it does look better without them. I have to admit that I smoked in undergrad and often never listened to the designated areas, because NO ONE did. I can’t say I’m surprised they did something about it. Obviously there are other reasons, like the tax breaks and financial benefits to the school, but Towson smokers should be aware of how much students ignored and abused the designated spaces previously, it’s not purely the administrations fault for peoples’ discomfort now.

  • Colonel Warden said:

    It is hard to feel bad for the smokers when I frequently saw blatant violations of the old smoking policy.

  • Michael J. McFadden said:

    Artie, you wrote, “Forcing smokers to the campus perimeter is a clever way of enticing the smoker to quit. But more likely, it is the consequence of a policy written without the smoker in mind.”

    Sorry, but I think you’re wrong. The entire rationale behind the multi-million dollar “Smoke Free Campuses” project is to treat the students like rats to be trained with little electric shocks into exhibiting the desired behavior: it’s called social engineering.

    And you wrote, “So I decided to contact smokefree@towson.edu about the issue. I have yet to receive a response.”

    I’m not surprised. I devoted a whole chapter of my book to “Communicating With Antismokers” and a significant part of that chapter examined an exchange I had with the Smoke-Free person at a major university. As long as they thought I might be an innocent student or reporter, everything was fine. As soon as I indicated that I had arguments with their policy they immediately cut off all communication.

    There is no reason in the world, other than pure social engineering, to deny campus smokers some comfortable indoor, exhaust ventilated accommodations to relax, study, and chat with their friends. I don’t know if I can post links here, so I’ll simply suggest that you Google:


    and read “The Health Arguments” aka “The Lies Behind The Smoking Bans” there. Feel free to print it out as suggested and share it with the students along the campus border and fight the policy.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  • Michael J. McFadden said:

    Sorry… I left a sentence off the end of the second paragraph: “The policy was VERY much written with the smoker IN mind!”

    - MJM

  • Cait said:

    I don’t see why all smokers should be punished for some breaking the rules in the past. You non-smokers act like you are all high and mighty, as if most of you probably don’t break rules all the time. Hate on smokers all you want, but just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you should discriminate against people who do it. I am much less concerned with being polite to non-smokers now that I am forced onto the edges of campus and into hiding.

  • Joe said:

    No surprise that the smokers who commented are acting like complete children at best. Guess what, nobody forced you to enter into the contract as a Towson University student. If you don’t like it, try your chances dropping out or go somewhere else. It isn’t like anybody at this University will lose any sleep if there are no smokers walking around campus. What an absolute joke you guys are making of yourselves on here..

  • Michael J. McFadden said:

    So Joe, I gather you weren’t able to actually find anything specific or substantive to criticize in my “Lies Behind The Smoking Bans” at that Google link from V.Gen5H ? The “joke” lies with those who shout their beliefs but can’t defend them properly.

    - MJM

  • Fuck Joe said:

    You are an unadulterated asshole. Please refrain from commenting any further. Thanks in advance!

  • Michael J. McFadden said:

    So I gather “Joe” wasn’t able to come up with any criticisms of the analyses of the actual studies that are falsely used to promote these smoking bans?

    The students at Towson might find the article in yesterday’s Texas Tribune article by Reeve Hamilton: “To Keep Their Research Funding Universities Mulling Tobacco Bans” of interest (Google it). Evidently schools are now being blackmailed into forcing outdoor smoking bans by the big antismoking grant foundations which threaten to withhold tens of millions of dollars in grant money unless they conform.

    Nothing like academic free thought, eh?

    - MJM

  • Robert Johnson said:

    I know its like a year late but this is just one extra step to broaden smokers to be second class citizens. Something America endorses so much is hated at the same time by those same Americans who endorse it. All for the money.

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