Let me start by saying that I do not smoke. I think smoking is one of the most malignant addictions that has plagued this country, and I believe everyone should quit, for their sake and for the sake of everyone around them. That’s why I am in favor of allowing e-cigarettes on campus.

“But Alex!” some of you might be protesting. “You are a pious, rudimentary Mormon do-gooder! How can you be in favor of such a thing?” Let me explain. Tobacco, and the multitudes of malignant additives, make for a particularly potent carcinogen, and therefore is extremely detrimental to your health. The consistent use of these products leads to scores of disease, both for the smoker and those who spend the most time around them. Seeing that these cancer sticks are a prevalent source for concern across the nation, a pragmatic society would look for ways fix the problem and help the people stuck within it.

Across the page from me is the Opposing Viewpoint as to why these “e-cigs” are an abomination, and a malfeasance of an addition to our campus. It reads of dubious under-regulation and fledgling studies linked to pneumonia, child addiction and (according to my editor) the rise of the zombie apocalypse. These very points are the foundation of my argument: that, in intensive research, that’s all they could find. If you were to research the effects of tobacco cigarettes for five minutes, you could find more information than all of the current studies on e-cigs. That underwhelming lack of evidence is cause for concern, and while will not be “puffing” any time soon, I think that those who want to should be able to.

This legislation affects more than the junkie puffing away on a kiwi-strawberry zombie stick. It affects upstanding students. I spoke with one such student, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of controversy. This student is a brilliant musician who has been smoking for seven years and has decided to quit, using e-cigs as his way out. When I asked him about the new regulations, this is what he said:

“It’s kind of unfair, seeing as it’s illegal to smoke them inside buildings anyway. They don’t put off as much smoke, and if you can smell it, it’s not the same as a cigarette. People stand next to fog machines all the time; it’s practically the same thing. Utah’s air in the winter is awful; you have people driving diesel trucks that pour black smoke down the street. Why don’t we talk to them? Isn’t that a public health concern as well?”

Legislating away people’s ability to break addiction doesn’t seem like a smart move. It seems like a decision made out of fear. Fearful decisions rarely end with the desired results. If we can lower the risk of secondhand smoke on our campus and help people break free of the big tobacco vice grip, why would we not do that? Because we’re afraid, and don’t like the cherry-flavored clouds floating between Elizabeth Hall and the Union. Fear breeds intolerance. Intolerance breeds rebellion, which leads us back to more smokers on campus. If tobacco and e-cigs carry the same penalty, why change? There’s no incentive.

Speaking of penalties, what is the penalty for smoking on campus? There are signs everywhere banning people from smoking and puffing, yet we continue to see smokers around campus. If there had been a showing of enforcement of this legislation, wouldn’t we have seen a change? If the senate has no authority to stop people from smoking at WSU, then why pass legislation? Surely they wouldn’t be posturing to appeal to their highly conservative constituency. That sounds nothing like Utah politics.

My proposal is as follows: Enforce the legislation that was so boldly advertised, or revoke it. People stand to benefit either way, whether it be in the senate’s ability to enforce legislation or in smokers’ ability to conscientiously light up. In the process, let’s stop seeing electronic smokers and Camel Joe smokers as the same people. The “puffer” just got off the camel. If I can, I’ll do everything I can to keep him there. We all should.

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