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Second-hand smoke is pollution

I am writing to the Vanguard in hopes of spurring a little awareness and change on campus at Portland State University.

I am a new student at PSU and have just applied for the master’s program in the hearing and speech sciences. My program is based in the basement of Neuberger Hall.

Every day, I must enter the building through a huge cloud of tobacco smoke. I am appalled by the fact that all the smokers congregate next to Smith Center and Neuberger and as a result I have to pay for it.

The EPA has classified environmental tobacco smoke a Class-A “human carcinogen” – causing cancer in humans and unsafe at any level (EPA, “Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking,” December 1992). Secondhand smoke is a major source of air pollution; it contains chemicals like lead, arsenic, cadmium and benzene. If there were a factory smokestack pumping these chemicals into the air on campus, there is no way people would allow it. Why should it be any different because the pollutants are coming from cigarettes?

Why are smokers allowed to infringe upon my clean air space? Isn’t there a campus policy about smoking 10 feet away from the building? Secondhand smoke is the third leading preventable cause of death. About 47,000 Americans will die from heart disease caused by secondhand smoke this year (A. Judson Wells, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, August 1994).

Being in the field of the hearing and speech sciences, I know the effects of secondhand smoke on people and children. It causes coughs, ear infections and asthma in kids. In adults, smoking and secondhand smoke causes mouth and lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, vocal cord nodules (creating a raspy voice) and various other respiratory problems. So not only is secondhand smoke a health risk to PSU students and staff, but also to all of our clients who enter the building for speech therapy sessions in the basement.

I would ask the PSU community to ban smoking right outside the buildings; this should be a non-smoking area. Limiting the area where smoking is allowed will not take away anyone’s rights. Smokers can smoke in areas where the secondhand smoke is avoidable, such as the Park Blocks. A strong policy that protects people from secondhand smoke might just make smokers think about their addiction and help them decide to quit.

Radha Sosienski

PSU post-bac student