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Alienation isn’t the way to stop habit of smoking

POSTED: April 6, 2014 1:30 a.m.

Last week marked four months since I quit smoking.

Cravings and temptations are still present, but I have largely adjusted to the life of a nonsmoker, though I still chew nicotine gum.

Since most of the personal struggles of quitting have subsided, I have found myself thinking about the issue in a larger context. As a society, we all have a duty to promote healthier living for the betterment of all, but we must protect the rights of people to do what they wish with their own body and property.

When it comes to smoking, the line between these two responsibilities is less than clear, largely due to the dangers of secondhand smoke and the general desire of most nonsmokers to avoid the smells associated with the act.

Recently, the University System of Georgia adopted a new policy banning all tobacco products on state-run properties beginning Oct. 1. On the surface, this seems like a good change. I am currently a student at the University of North Georgia, which will have to abide by the policy, and I am glad the temptation that comes with seeing other people smoke will be removed completely.

However, I think the new rules take it a step too far. Current policy at UNG relegates smokers to their cars before they can light up. This change will require smokers to leave the campus entirely.

This approach to the smoking problem is entirely misguided. The act of smoking itself comes with a variety of consequences, some serious and some inconsequential. Unless you live under a rock, you know it can steal your health and end you life. Inconvenience is simply unlikely to convince someone who is addicted to tobacco products to drop the habit.

The fear of secondhand smoke to nonsmokers is certainly valid, but I do not believe it poses a significant threat when it is only allowed in a vehicle. Additionally, smoking often breeds a reckless nature and confrontation will likely be counterproductive.

Instead of making more it more inconvenient to smoke, school officials should make it more convenient to quit, which is not always the same thing. Many schools have student health clinics that can help with cessation, but you rarely see them advertised. Educational ventures, cessation support groups and counseling can all help smokers quit.

Understanding, not alienation, is the way to beat this problem. Of course, smoking should not be allowed everywhere because it is a public safety concern. But removing it completely from college campuses will not help.

On a personal note, I may not enjoy walking past people who are smoking, but I feel a certain elation when I successfully travel through temptation. These feelings of progress and victory are essential to my continued abstinence. Without them, smoking might become something that is “easy” and “harmless” again.

I can’t afford that. My family can’t afford that. Likewise, society cannot afford to ignore those who need help.

Andrew Akers is a University of North Georgia student, a member of The Times staff and lives in Clarkesville. Contact him at aakers@gainesvilletimes.com or 770-718-3413.


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