By Zain Abouraia, Opinion Editor
In the spring of 2013, new regulations at Valley College came into effect that cracked down on smoking, furthering the cause of the anti-smoking movement, or as some see it, the anti-smoker movement. Since that time, the number of legal smoking areas has dwindled from 11 to four. The distance of the smoking areas can be measured in states rather than the standard Valley unit of measurement: buildings. Trying to navigate from classes to these areas to grab a smoke is a task of navigation and scheduling worthy of the elite fourtune-500 companies.
Smoking students have the same problems as non-smoking students and a few more: they smoke because they have to. Just like any user of mind-altering substances, they smoke for a reason. Whatever their reasons may be, the fact remains that smokers use tobacco to mitigate the overwhelming stress they feel due to a multitude of factor. There is the concern of doing well in school, fear of failing an exam and juggling daily life.
As every student knows, stress fuels key factors such as anxiety and depression, which delineate the difference between success and failure in school. It is easier to learn, retain and recall information when one is calm, and as any student could tell you, it is nearly impossible to do when stressed. While every student has his/her own practices to lessen the weight of this burden, smoking students have found two things that significantly reduce feelings of anxiety: cigarettes and their fellow smokers. Many smokers feel that the cigarette by itself is a very small part of the therapeutic effects of smoking; the primary factor is the feelings of camaraderie and community smokers feel by taking the time to have a smoke and a chat with like-minded people.
“There are times we need to relax. We finally finished that cursed test. Or we’re about to take that cursed test. This is how many students unwind during points of stress,” said Kevin Stoudenmire, criminology major, “The pleasure of smoking as well doesn’t hurt anyone who walks away. Takes another path. To walk through it [the smoke] and complain is childish.”
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has recently concluded a study involving 76,000 women, finding no significant statistical link between passive smoke inhalation and lung cancer. In fact, the only scenario of passive smoke inhalation that posed something resembling a “borderline significant” risk was living with a smoker for over 30 years.
If that isn’t compelling enough, James E. Enstrom Ph.D., M.P.H., a research professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center along with Geoffrey C Kabat, conducted a comprehensive study over the course of 39 years on “environmental tobacco smoke” and their conclusion was, “The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality; although, they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.”
To put that into perspective, one is exposed to greater hazards on a daily basis than cigarette smoke. If you fly frequently, have a cellphone or computer, you are absorbing significant amounts of radiation; if you drive on the freeway, you are inhaling exhaust fumes from 1,000 cars; the food you eat that is supplied by the industrial-food system is riddled with hormones and antibiotics; tap water is contaminated with heavy metals, sanitary chemicals and prescription drugs. No one is clamoring for a flying ban, driving ban or tap-water ban because everyone recognizes that the risks are negligible.
Regardless of the scientific evidence and students’ concerns, Valley plans to eliminate the four designated smoking areas and call a complete ban on smoking.
“I feel like they’re not taking in account how both sides feel. I’m a person. Yes, I smoke, that doesn’t mean you can push me off to the side and then exile me when it didn’t work,” said Valley student Kevin Takashi Koshiro (major undecided). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a medal for smoking, but I don’t think you deserve one for not smoking. I respect your vast area of non-smoking, so respect my square.”