Young woman smokingAccording to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, 1,182 colleges in the U.S. have campus-wide smoking bans. To illustrate just how much this trend has taken off recently, back in 2010, that number was only 420. (There’s got to be some joke in that second stat, right?) Not all schools have come to this decision on their own: Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, and, earlier this summer, Louisiana have all issued smoking bans to all public institutions statewide.

Before we go any further, let me clarify. Personally, I have no horse in this race. I don’t smoke but I’m not particularly bothered by the smell. I could wake up tomorrow and learn that all tobacco products had been banned in the US and it really wouldn’t change my life whatsoever. On the flipside, I could wake up tomorrow and learn that I had been transported into a noir film, or Eastern Europe, and my reaction as far as smoking is concerned would be basically non-existent.

As far as I can tell, smoking bans exist for one reason: to make smoking less culturally acceptable. After all, that’s the only way to effectively fight the practice. The less people see others smoking, whether it’s in movies or walking down the street, the less it’ll be seen as normative behavior, and the less they’ll have a desire to try.

And that’s a noble goal. There are any number of statistics I could throw out related to lung cancer, heart problems, or any other sometimes fatal condition that’s exacerbated by smoking. But I’m pretty sure you’ve heard them all before.

That being said, part of me feels sorry for smokers. I know, I know, cry me a river for all the smokers who need to huddle together in the cold X number of feet away from a building every time they want to reduce their life expectancy by a few minutes. But at the end of the day, smoking is a personal choice and everyone needs to respect that. I generally feel that the impact one person’s choice has on other non-smokers is overstated. I’m not arguing against research findings on second-hand smoke, I’m just saying that, personally, I think the name “Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights” is kind of silly, as if nonsmokers were under attack by smokers, big tobacco, and their lobbyists.

As always, the opinions above are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Bookbyte. However, my straddling-the-fence position on the topic leaves me wide open for posts from people with all sorts of perspectives to tell me how wrong I am. Fire away, commenters!