A year and a half ago when I was a young, naïve senior in high school, I had narrowed down my future college choice to two universities: the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech.
While both were academically prestigious and culturally diverse, there was one factor that eventually gave way to my final decision. The choice came down to whether I wanted to be standing in Ann Arbor in the freezing cold in a throng of hazy cigarette fumes or walking through clean, fresh air in sunny Atlanta.
I have now noticed that my once seemingly solid reason to attend Tech is crumbling away. Perhaps it is merely the weather, the harder classes, or even my own heightened stress levels, but it seems that across campus, more and more students are taking up the awful habit of cigarette smoking.
I realize that smoking every once in a while (whether it be in the form of a Cuban cigar or some sort of unmentionable substance) can be interpreted as a cultural or celebratory activity. Yet, if someone is finishing off a pack of Camels in a week or even a day, that person has to admit that he or she has a problem.
Aside from the obvious health-related downsides to puffing on a nice cigarette, I’m going to launch this simple public service announcement: smoking is not cool! As corny as it sounds, many people, including myself, find it to be quite true.
Walking through campus past four or more smokers on separate occasions makes up by and large the most irritating moments of my day, seeing as I have to hold my breath just to escape the threat of these poisonous vapors from entering my nasal cavities. Even afterwards, I feel haunted by the remnants of ashy smell lingering through the air.
I’m sure many of the die-hard students who support lighting up a nice Marlboro or Camel have their fair share of reasons for why they partake in this activity. For example, smoking relaxes people or makes them seem sexy and mysterious. Yet, is there a way smokers can look sexy and relax without making themselves a health risk to everyone else around them?
There ought to be some way for one to escape from the stressors of a life at Tech other than inducing oneself into a nicotine-influenced sense of calm. I would suggest finding a hobby or watching television. While the activity may start off as a one that only happens once in a while, nicotine addiction will take over. I understand that addiction is a tough thing to stop, but look at it this way: whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
In addition, I acknowledge that certain studies have indicated that smoking can have health benefits, such as the lower prevalence of Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia, but to a much higher degree smokers put themselves at risk for rapid heartbeat, heart disease and oral cancer.
Most of all, there is nothing more unattractive to me than a group of good-looking guys parked outside of the library exhaling out a storm of smoke. A handsome guy with a good personality, but who smells like an ashtray still just smells like an ashtray. I’m sure it’s hot and mysterious if Brad Pitt does it in Fight Club, but one has to realize that it’s the real world. The last time I checked, the black lung is not a very sexy attribute to have.
I write about this not to be snarky, pretentious or even whiny. In fact, many of my friends are and have recently become smokers. Instead, I say this as a plea to those around me, friends and strangers, that this activity (although trendy for now) kills and is incredibly detrimental to everyone.
Yes, I may be exaggerating, but at least this one last bit is true. Over 500,000 deaths per year in the United States are caused by smoking-related diseases. Second-hand smoke causes 38,000 deaths per year, 3,400 of which are related to lung cancer in non-smokers.
However, if the sheer exhilaration of slowly smoking yourself to death is too difficult to pull away from, I have one piece of advice: lock yourself in a room while you smoke. At least that way you won’t kill the rest of us with you.