Smoking -- What To Do About It!

By Stentor Danielson

February 1998

Unless you've either spent the last few years in a cave on Mars with the lights turned out and your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears and a clothespin on your nose, you know that there's a smoking problem in this school. Bathrooms all over the school smell like industrial chimneys, and nobody knows quite what to do about it.

Northwestern Lehigh adopted a tobacco policy this year known as "Two strikes you're out." This means that a student will be expelled for one semester if caught smoking twice during their entire high school career. The administration has noted huge improvements in the amount of smoke in the bathrooms. Many of the students are in agreement, though some say that the policy infringes on smokers' rights.

I can't understand the concept of "infringing on smokers' rights." I believe that when you violate someone else's rights, you renounce any claim to those rights for yourself. This explains why it's not murder to execute convicted killers -- by killing someone, they have shown that they do not regard life as a right possessed by a person, and since rights must apply to everybody, they no longer possess the right to live. I'll get off the death penalty now, since that's a whole topic to itself. My point is that smoker's no longer have the right to breathe the type of air they chose (i.e., smokefilled air) if they violate a nonsmokre's right to breathe their air of choice (i.e., smoke-free air.) This "right to breathe" is not a trivial matter, since the last time I checked, a person who doesn't breathe will die. Thus, andy public smoking is a crime due to the nature of teh activity.

Now that I've established the validity of anti-smoking rules, let's consider the punishment. The only way to prevent a cigarette from being smoked is to confiscate it and destroy it. You can't just take away the cigarettes, because that would be violating the smoker's right to own property, and the smoker hasn't necessarily stolen anything (which would be the only way to justify stealing from him/her.) But there is another right of the nonsmoker that the smoker is infringing upon: the right to an atmosphere conducive to learning. The odor of tobacco is not conducive to learning for a nonsmoker, and neither is the discomfort of needing to use the restroom (but being unable to due to the stench). Thus, it is acceptable to deprive smokers of their right to learn if they have deprived others of it by smoking.

There is one final issue. To punish a criminal, your must first catch him. Teachers cannot be patrolling the bathrooms constantly -- they have classes to teach (hence the name "TEACher"), and the school district cannot afford to hire a "potty monitor" for each bathroom. I propose guarding the bathrooms with a machine: a hypersensitive smoke alarm that emits a pair of irritating, high pitched and very loud screeches that distinctly do NOT harmonize. This would be able to summon faculty or administration when a problem occurs, without the hassle of a person there while there is no problem. Perhaps the alarm could be attached to a sprinkler system, which would hose down the offender. The water would not only deter smokers who don't think anybody will catch them, but it would also make it easier to identify the smoker if he/she gets away.

Let me remind you that this is an editorial, so everything I wrote is my opinion. You are certainly entitled to have your own opinion, provided you suppress it and pretend to agree with everything I write.

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