SWARTZ: Stop demonizing campus smokers



Matilda Swartz

[The following is not an advocacy for or protest against the act of smoking cigarettes. It is however, a reconsideration of public perception].

The act of lighting up is ubiquitous and has been for years, despite what has been reported as a general decrease over the years. As The Villanovan reported only weeks ago, the only age group that has increased their nicotine consumption is the 18 to 24-year-old population, the college crowd, us. But students have not followed suit. According to a spring 2009 National Health College Assessment study of undergraduate Wildcats, over 70 percent of us claimed to have never smoked. The same survey reported that a mere 1.8 percent of undergrads on this campus considered themselves to be daily smokers.

Villanova is not the norm. Still, it is not rare to see students having a smoke between classes, in front of Falvey or, of course, on the front steps of Bartley (although with the new ordinance we hope that the partakers are at least 25 feet away from their edifice of choice). What does surprise me, at times, is the immense disgust often expressed by the Villanova non-smokers at the puffing minority. Perhaps most of us have been conditioned from prior D.A.R.E. programs or ones like it, reinforcing time and time again the before and after lung photos of a habitual smoker. Our generation missed out on the glory days of smoking, when the Marlboro Man was still tall, dark and handsome, and life really was like “Mad Men,” where everyone from CEOs to secretaries in fashionable A-line dresses accompanied each martini and mug of coffee with a Camel.

Instead, we grew up in the generation of surgeon general’s warnings and organic food; we are much more conscious of every chemical and detriment to our immunity. There is nothing wrong with this. Yet it seems hypocritical of us to turn a blind eye when we watch others (or, okay, even ourselves) pick up McDonald’s or Late Nite Connelly for a quick fix, or douse our livers with Natty Light only to buzz up what would otherwise be a boring Friday evening, because it is often these folks who are the finger-pointers and nose-turners whenever the scent of nicotine infiltrates the air.

Everyone starts pleading the second when it comes to second-hand smoke.

McDonald’s and Late Nite don’t clog the arteries of people within 25 feet of us, but alcohol does lead to a proven disorientation which impairs driving abilities, thus putting in danger the lives of anyone who drives, walks or plays the passenger. We do not always have the ability to stay off the roads just because a potential drunk driver is at bay; but we are never forced to stand next to a smoker.

There is no “smoking section” in the Pit or 24-hour smoking lounge in Falvey. Consequently, I have never seen anyone try to light up in either place, or any other indoor spot on campus. Why, then, must we look down upon those who follow the rules, even if they choose to play a different game?

Here is the misconception: smoking is a free choice – just like voting, praying or consuming fast food.

It is all about what the individual wants to do with his or her own willpower, and as long as rules are followed, there is no fairness in deeming that person wrong or “gross.” To hold the opinion that the act of smoking is unattractive or disgusting is one matter, but to go as far as to let one choice define the person smoking seems extreme. There are numerous faculty and staff members on this very campus who can be seen smoking in between classes, but would anyone find it accurate to generalize such prestigious adults as gross people? I would hope not.

Smoking is not a huge Villanova vice, but that is not the issue. Degrading the value of those who do smoke is a problem – one that should not be tolerated. On your next stroll through campus, count the smokers versus the walking-texters and judge for yourself which is truly more offensive. Bic lighters almost seem harmless compared to touch-screens.


Matilda Swartz is a sophomore communication

major from Longport, N.J. She can be reached at

[email protected].