The long-standing debate on students' rights to smoke on campus has risen to the fore again. Following a recent post on the ARA online forum that complained of smokers, those critical of smoking and its harmful effects have clashed with others who defend the students' rights to free choice. The KAIST Herald exmaines the two sides of the debate.
Pro: A Mutual Understanding is Called For
By Ji Ha Kim
Smoking has always been an activity that is negatively perceived; it deteriorates your health in multiple ways and also can affect others’ through second-hand smoking. There is no doubt that smoking is a bad habit for anyone to acquire, but is it also a wrong habit? During the past month especially, there has been controversy over smoking in various areas on the KAIST campus. In fact, to put it more precisely, there has been a lack of controversy. With almost everyone on the non-smokers’ side of the debate, it seems like they are the only ones receiving any kind of sympathy.
Heated discussions took place on the ARA website when a KAIST student posted her experience with someone who was smoking just outside of the Creative Learning Building. The student, according to the post, politely asked the smoker if he could go and smoke somewhere else as many people enter and exit the doors of the building. The smoker pointed at the ashtray placed next to the doors of the entrance, implying that he should be allowed to smoke there. Enraged and befuddled, the non-smoker student wrote an angry post on ARA that went up to the weekly best list with over 120 votes of recommendation compared to the mere 18 votes of opposition.
Most of the comments sided with the poster, with the main argument being that just because there is an ashtray bin doesn’t mean that people are allowed to smoke in that area. However, this is an invalid point that should not be used to defend the poster. The placement of the ashtray bin, installed by the school itself, signifies that people are allowed to smoke there. As smoking is banned within buildings, it is clear that these bins were placed just outside of the doors because people usually step outside to smoke before coming back in. If one is disturbed and worried about second-hand smoking, then he can simply walk away from the smoke while the smoker stays near the ashtray bin.
Many are also complaining about people who smoke while walking along the roads on campus. Again, as long as the road isn’t so congested with people that there is no room to move anywhere else, people who are bothered by the smoke can walk away or walk at a distance from the smoker. If people think that both smoking in a designated area around an ashtray and smoking while walking are wrong, it is clear that those people aren’t actually complaining about specific smoking habits, but rather their dislike of cigarette smoke in general. When someone smokes while walking, then of course he should beware of not offending those around him. But smoking is a choice and, assuming you are over the age limit, a legal one at that. Although it may be an unhealthy decision to take up smoking, non-smokers should nonetheless respect the smokers’ decision, just as smokers should be conscious of smoking etiquette.
This leads to the next problem that keeps arising in KAIST dormitories. Students frequently catch the smell of cigarette smoke in toilet stalls in their dormitories. This is without a doubt the smokers’ fault for smoking inside, which is banned. But why do these people smoke in these tiny stalls, when if they really didn’t care about the dormitory regulations they could easily smoke inside other, more spacious rooms? One possible, and highly probable, reason could be that they are ashamed of smoking. It is true that people view the activity as a bad one, but some go so far as to judge a person only by whether he smokes. This applies particularly to female smokers, but condescension from non-smokers is something that many smokers are offended by, regardless of gender. If people were more tolerant of smoking, then perhaps the frequency of these happenings could be reduced.
This controversy surrounding smoking on campus can only be solved through mutual understanding. Smokers should try as much as possible not to cause harm to others through smoking, but non-smokers should also respect the smokers’ decision and allow them equal rights to exercise their choice.
Con: A Free Choice, but Etiquette Must be Observed
By Angela Choi
Lately, the issue of smoking has led to some heated discussions in our school regarding smoking etiquette, including where smokers should be smoking. There have been rather angry posts on the school’s online student forum ARA complaining about smokers, and a clinical program held on Fridays has recently been started to help people quit smoking and reduce the smoking rate.
However, despite all these efforts, it is a personal choice and no one can really tell people whether or not they can smoke. People have their own personal reasons for doing it: it’s a stress reliever; it’s a bad habit that they picked up in high school; it’s because their friends do it too; it’s because my boyfriend does it; and the list goes on. Smokers can be found all around campus: at the Creative Learning Building, dormitories, libraries, outside of Burger King, on the sidewalks and pretty much anywhere else.
Making KAIST’s campus a completely smoke-free zone may be a near-impossible task but we should at least regulate where smoking is and isn’t appropriate. If I were to compare this with alcohol, smoking in the presence of others is like forcing others to drink. Once you contaminate the air with smoke fumes, everyone around you must inhale the smoke too. Many of my friends have no issues with people smoking, but once smoking begins to affect them and their environment, they get annoyed. Additionally, studies have shown that second-hand smoking can cause lung cancer in non-smokers since many of the carcinogenic fumes are inhaled. According to the World Health Organization, there is no such thing as a safe level of exposure to smoke. Unless you’re not in a completely smoke-free environment, you’re at risk from the many noxious chemicals found in smoke.
In most buildings, there are designated areas like the verandas in which people should be smoking. But when people don’t follow these simple rules and start to smoke where they shouldn’t, we get problems. One such example is in the boys’ dormitories at KAIST. I have heard many complaints from non-smoking friends who say that smokers will smoke indoors instead of out on the verandas, letting the smoke pervade the hallways. Is it really too much to ask for you to walk 10 meters to smoke outside? Another hot issue at KAIST is with people smoking outdoors. As students are walking outside, there are some who choose to smoke while walking. What they don’t seem to realize is that as they walk, they leave a path of smoke that all other students who walk behind them have to suffer through. Rather than telling these people to walk in separate paths from non-smokers, the more viable solution would simply be to tell them to resist the urge to smoke for ten minutes and to smoke once they get to the Creative Learning Building or wherever their destination may be. In all honesty, that these people have the audacity to smoke wherever they want just comes to show how ignorant they are of common courtesy.
This problem is not just one within KAIST but also one that is being addressed in Seoul. In an effort to diminish the widespread habit of smoking in Korea, new laws regarding smoking are in the process of implementation in the city. Following a three-month grace period to allow smokers to adapt, the laws will be effective as of July and smoking in the area between exit 9 of Gangnam station to exit 6 in Sinnonhyeon station in Gangnam will result in a 50,000 Korean Won fine. Although the efficacy of this legislation is questionable, it may be the beginning of more stringent regulations on smoking in Korea.
Public policies regarding smoking vary around the world, where most countries ban smoking in public places and a handful of countries like Singapore prohibit smoking almost everywhere with signs signifying where smoking isn’t banned. As the world heads in a more eco-friendly direction, steps are being taken to decrease tobacco use. These steps begin by limiting the areas in which people can smoke. Instead of marking smoke-free zones, governments should follow in Singapore’s footsteps and start marking “smoke-allowed” zones instead, making it the norm for most places to be smoke-free.
Most smokers disregard the potential harm to both themselves and others, and scoff at the medical repercussions of smoking, claiming that all people are destined to die anyway and that docking off a few years of life won’t matter. However, for the sake of the health of others, please be courteous and smoke where bystanders don’t have to inhale your second-hand smoke.