The recent editorial by Christopher Scoville on Dukes proposed dormitory smoking policy shows virtually no understanding about the science of secondhand smoke. Further, by encouraging students who smoke to ignore the policy, it is irresponsible by negligently encouraging behavior known to kill and injure those exposed.
Secondhand smoke is a Class A Carcinogen, the same category as asbestos. With over 40 cancer causing agents, secondhand smoke kills over 40,000 Americans every year, more than all Duke students combined. If a nonsmoking Duke student spends 30 minutes in the room of a smoker, they will have reduced heart function. The effects of secondhand smoke are immediate and ultimately cumulative. Nonsmoking students have the legal right to a nonsmoking environment. The privilege of smoking in society only extends to the boundary of infringing on a nonsmokers health.
Accommodation, asking smokers not to smoke in the presence of nonsmokers, is the policy of the tobacco industry. The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and National Cancer Institute all recommend maximal protection of nonsmokers from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.
Duke University is a leader in many areas of secular and scientific information, in undergraduate and graduate education. I applaud Dukes leadership decision to eliminate indoor secondhand smoke exposure for the majority of students, also vastly reducing fire risks in dorms (remember what happened so tragically in Chapel Hill several years ago when a smoldering cigarette killed sleeping dormitory students).
The overwhelming majority of all Duke students will gladly obey and applaud the policy. Only a very few selfish students will purposely choose to ignore it, and I hope Duke is as strict with them as they would be for other policies willingly ignored at the expense of others.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.