As you may have heard, the University, under pressure from the Medical Center, may stop selling cigarettes on campus next year.

The University has already banned smoking in indoor locations, and I think it's likely it won't be too long before Duke joins the growing collegiate trend (and its own Medical Center) and bans smoking on campus altogether.

This would be a grievous error.

With countless dollars and the awesome force of political correctness behind it, the anti-smoking crusade is nearly impervious to truth or reason.

But I shall nonetheless make an effort to dismantle a few of the major lies that have brought our society to its knees before the unrelenting health fascists.

So let's begin.

A study in the British Medical Journal reports that men who quit smoking before the age of 30 live just as long as those who never smoked. Indeed, it is safer for college kids to smoke than to drive.

But what of the people who don't quit? As the renowned Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, reports, even if one uses the government's own dubious figures, the majority of smoking deaths occur at age 70 or above. Moreover, almost half occur at age 75 or above and almost 20 percent occur at age 85 or above. A great many smokers who die of tobacco-related causes are still outliving non-smokers.

Again, the actual figures are probably even more optimistic for smokers because the anti-smoking studies are so biased. In these studies, smoking-related deaths are defined as anything that kills smokers at a higher rate than non-smokers, even if negligibly so. Thus, a smoker whose obesity kills him through heart disease still gets tallied as a smoking death. Even deaths by fire are counted as smoking-related. I kid you not.

In "Lies, Damned Lies, and 400,000 Smoking Related Deaths," the authors show that if one even lightly firms up the standards for smoking-related deaths, the number immediately drops by 65 percent.

And get this-if one applies the same methodology the Centers for Disease Control uses to calculate smoking-related deaths to lack-of-exercise related deaths, failure to exercise kills over 100,000 more people than smoking. And bad dietary habits? Over 200,000 more people. Using the CDC's standards, smoking is healthier than getting too little exercise or eating poorly.

So is the University going to shut down McDonald's?

In fact, if one compares smokers who live a healthy lifestyle to non-smokers who live a very unhealthy lifestyle, smokers will in fact turn out to be "healthier and die less often by a factor of three than the never-smokers."

And what of second-hand smoking, you say? Even if the risk of smoking is grossly exaggerated, don't non-smokers have a right to avoid the grave hazards of second-hand smoking? They would, if only second-hand smoking were in fact a grave hazard.

As the Cato Institute Reports in "The Case Against Smoking Bans," a forgotten study from the New England Journal of Medicine in 1975 found that, "one would have to breathe smoke-filled air for 4,000 hours in order to inhale as much tobacco smoke as a smoker inhales in a single cigarette."

How does this translate to cancer risks?

A 2003 study of 35,000 never-smoking Californians who were married to smokers, based on data collected for 39 years, found "no heightened lung cancer risk among study subjects." And that's people living with smokers-not those who happen to dine in a restaurant or walk on a boulevard where someone is lighting up.

What does this all mean? First and foremost, second-hand smoking cannot be used to justify efforts to restrict and ban smoking. Secondly, smoking, while risky and potentially lethal, is not nearly as dangerous as special interest groups and their cohorts in government have made it out to be. It is instead an issue with tremendous political capital that preys on people's fears.

The real risks are the fascistic tendencies that prohibit smoking in even private establishments, violating our liberties and setting the groundwork for a future where any personal habit can be regulated when it is politically expedient.

So, to all smokers and people who value their freedom, I say it is time to draw a line in the ash and defend our right to light up.

Washington Duke wouldn't have it any other way.

Stephen Miller is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Monday.