“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 tax free Kent 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.