This being my first column for The Daily Athenaeum, I felt it was appropriate to write about something important – a matter of life and death. And that is really crux of the issue, isn’t it? Secondhand smoke kills people. It’s a fact. Numerous scientific studies have shown it, and in other parts of the world and the US this issue has been all but laid to rest by laws prohibiting smoking Bond in public places, limiting exposure to the deadly fumes.

In Morgantown it is accepted that there are certain places where you are going to have to suffer through the smoke. But those places are too numerous and often too important.

Right outside buildings on campus? Those are zones of high traffic, and thus high numbers of people are affected.
That, more than anything, frustrates me about this.

How can someone in good conscience be so willing to endanger other people just for their own convenience? That is why we have things like speed limits. They keep those who are reckless from harming themselves, but most importantly, they are prevented from harming others.

So why can’t we move this ban along? These are public places. The Health Sciences Center ban is a nice start, but how about outside the Life Sciences Building? Clark Hall? I hated leaving classes just because I knew I was going to be exposed to the smell and ill-effects of smoke as soon as I left.

The director of the Center for Disease Control, Thomas Frieden, is coming to Morgantown next week. This is a chance for us to finally do something about this ban. He is is also going to meet with the Monongalia County Health Department.

But who here will listen? Those who run the show in Morgantown have a vested interest in this issue and – news flash – that interest is not in your health. It’s in their pocketbooks.

The bar owners who have worked so hard to keep this ban from happening are simply more powerful than those who are fighting to implement it. If it were just smokers who were against the ban, this would have been passed a long time ago.

Now there is an outside force with much more clout coming in. Will this be the turning point? It certainly could be.
Or instead of listening to someone with a wealth of experience and a track record of success, will our local leaders simply thumb their noses at him, spurning a great opportunity to come to a reasonable solution?

This issue isn’t going away.Everyone has a strong opinion about it, whether it is because of convenience, their safety or their livelihoods.

But the fact still remains that without this ban, the health of our population is at risk. And isn’t that what’s most important? For parents to know that their children attend a University that cares about their health and well-being?

The University does so well in offering WELLWVU: The Students’ Center of Health and providing police for our protection. Secondhand smoke is the easiest of fixes, with no cost at all to the University.

Those who argue that banning smoking is discrimination against smokers should realize that by not banning it, those who make the wise decision not to smoke are the ones who are truly being discriminated against.

Why should those who make a good choice still be subjected to the dangers of others’ bad habits? In all parts of my life, I am surrounded by smoke, yet I’ve never touched a cigarette in my life. At work, at school and at play, smoking is a constant presence in my life, and I’m sure it is the same way for many others.

I don’t know if any progress will be made this upcoming week, but I can only hope that the University and city I love so much can show me they care for me and the rest of the non-smokers too.

There is no one better suited to making progress on this issue than the director of the CDC himself – I hope we take advantage of this opportunity and come out of this a cleaner and safer city and University.