There are so many smokers everywhere these days that it has become almost impossible for non-smokers to avoid second-hand smoking. People smoke as they walk along the sidewalk, along the corridors of apartments and on the verandas. Indeed, smoking is a ubiquitous habit of today’s generation. Taxi drivers smoke while waiting for customers and even public washrooms are not free from cigarettes. KAIST dormitories are not an exception. From time to time, a light scent of cigarette smoke creeps into the room through the unlocked doors and windows.
Even without breathing in all the smoke produced by cigarettes, there are many other types of polluted air that students helplessly and frequently inhale. For example, the exhaust gas coming from vehicles succeed in suffocating people for brief moments. Oftentimes, falling behind a car or motorcycle leaves students with no other option but to take in a couple breaths of unpleasant, smoggy air. It is indeed unfortunate that there is no way of getting out of the situation, for breathing is an involuntary action.
Based on such everyday experiences, one reaches the conclusion that for some reason, air has taken on the notion of personal property nowadays. It is an odd characteristic to be added to the very concept of “air.” Nonetheless, it is demonstrable that many people pollute the air without any shame. Careless smoking in public is a serious problem that has not been brought up often enough for a change to occur; consequently the terraces at KAIST’s Caffé Bene and Dunkin’ Donuts are often packed with smokers. It seems that some people have decided to add cigarettes to the menu as a must-have side dish. Consequently, sitting outside is a great challenge. Should enjoying a cup of fresh smoothie or coffee unmolested by toxic fumes be a hard-won privilege? Is public smoking a cultural problem that we need to simply accept and endure?
Surely we have the right to breathe fresh air. It is probably one of the most fundamental conditions for life itself that must be satisfied before all others. Surprisingly, however, most non-smokers seem not to object to the behaviors of careless smokers. They simply go somewhere else or avoid going near smokers in the first place. It is understandable that people do not like conflicts and that there exists a preconception that negotiation is arduous with such smokers, but ignoring and enduring cannot be the ultimate solution. It will only irritate your mind and your respiratory system. Why not say a word or two about your discomfort?
Also, for a positive change to happen it is important for all smokers to not only realize, but also to understand that there are people who – as an understatement - feel quite annoyed by second-hand smoking. In fact, it can even cause severe and irrevocable damages to some people, especially those who are more vulnerable to cigarettes than others. Still, many smokers neglect to spare a thought for others. Their disregard for others seems to really depend on their mindset. For the greater good, a little bit of communication will do no harm. After all, if they realize that they are causing harm and at least have an attachment to others, they would not smoke so indiscreetly.
Then, you may ask, where would people smoke? A clear answer unfortunately does not exist. Yet many people would agree that smoking in front of school cafeterias and the Undergraduate Library is unacceptable. These are the areas where many students pass by for meals, group meetings and other purposes. Setting restrictions against smoking seems to invade personal freedom and probably will not be effective in the long term. Smokers in smoke-free buildings clearly show that the rules made are not as powerful as expected. Thus communication and understanding are crucial between the smoking and non-smoking groups. Deep down inside, we – smokers included - probably all know the proper smoking etiquette.