The issue regarding the proposed smoking ordinance in Fort Collins is that secondhand smoke is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the toxins inhaled by the actual smoker. Everyone has the right to breathe smoke-free air and that right is taken away every time someone is allowed to light up a cigarette in an enclosed public area. For every eight smokers that the tobacco companies kill, they take one nonsmoker with them.
The ordinance that is currently being reviewed by the city council members would make it illegal for any public place or workplace to allow smoking. The controversy right now is whether or not bars and restaurants should be considered as places of work.
Of course bars and restaurants are places of work. How do these people think the majority of college students make a living? It is more lucrative to work in these fields than in a retail store or most college level office positions. So don’t we deserve to be protected just like the rest of Fort Collins? I believe so.
The fact of the matter is that breathing secondhand smoke does have health consequences and forcing people to work in an environment where they are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke increases their risk level by almost 400 percent. Now you tell me whose rights are being overlooked.
The problem in this situation is that most people don’t see the immediate effects of secondhand smoke exposure. I, however, am not that lucky. I was unfortunate enough to be born with asthma, a breathing disease that is aggravated by exposure to secondhand smoke. My entire life, I have been aware of the effects that secondhand smoke can have on a person. On one occasion I even had to make a trip to the emergency room.
But maybe I am the lucky one. Being at an age where tobacco companies are trying there hardest to sell their product to me, I am smart enough to realize that smoking would mean a likely death. Most college students aren’t so fortunate. At CSU, 34 percent of the students report themselves to be smokers. This is double the figure of the Fort Collins community as a whole. What a scary statistic.
How hard is it to step outside if you really want to smoke? If you want to put your own life at risk, what is so wrong about asking you to spare mine? Smokers like to speak of their rights when it comes to this topic. And they are correct. People in this country above the age of eighteen do have a right to smoke.
But with rights comes responsibility. Here’s a thought: drinking is legal at the age of twenty-one in this country. However, it is not legal to drink and than get into a car and drive. Why? Because you would be putting other people’s lives at risk. The issue of smoking rights presents the same type of situation. Yes, you do have the right to smoke. But where do your rights end and mine begin?
Jill Goodwin is a senior majoring in technical journalism. Comments on this column may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.