In the weeks since classes have started, I’ve walked past several people smoking and vaping on campus grounds. While people have every right to smoke, that right should not be abused while on campus where it can negatively impact the UT community.
UT is a tobacco-free campus, which includes e-cigarettes. The policy has been in place since April 2012 and prohibits the use of cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, vape pens and smokeless tobacco products, like snuff, on campus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breathing secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, heart diseases and strokes. Smokers know what they’re getting themselves into when they smoke cigarettes, but smoking where others can be harmed is irresponsible.
While there’s still some haziness surrounding the exact effects of secondhand vaping, there are lung damaging chemicals in e-cigarettes and vape pens like nicotine, ultrafine particles and heavy metals.
It’s not only harmful to those in the general vicinity of smokers, but it can be harmful to those witnessing it. People trying to quit smoking have a difficult enough time doing so already without being tempted to relapse.
There are also those on campus who may have health issues like asthma or heart disease. Breathing in cigarette smoke can cause an attack or make attacks worst. Those with heart diseases are at especially high risk for complications due to secondhand smoke and advised against even the briefest of encounters with smoke.
Smoking also affects more than just the people of our community. Our beloved campus squirrels can ingest improperly disposed cigarette butts, which can kill them. Who wants to be responsible for the death of our adorable fluffy friends? Who wants to potentially kill the iconic albino squirrel?
Cigarette butts can also float out into Waller Creek, where toxic chemicals leach out into the water. This creek flows through UT into Lady Bird Lake, which is home to a number of fish species. The toxic chemicals can harm the fish and hurt wildlife that drink the creek water.
It’s understandably difficult to go several classes without smoking, but there are ways around it. There is nicotine gum and patches at the Student Services Building pharmacy smokers can use. And exiting the campus grounds for a smoke break can be as simple as crossing to the other side of Guadalupe.
To all the smokers out there, please smoke responsibly. If you’re going to smoke, be considerate of those around you and where you are. Let’s strive to do better for our campus.
Rose is an English sophomore from The Woodlands. He is an columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jeffsroses.