Every day I find myself passing through the Compass, treading over cigarette butts and through cigarette smoke.
Bodily autonomy is a fantastic privilege to have, but the line is drawn when your consumption violently strip away at the environment and fellow members of the community.
According to studies conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), Richmond was ranked as the number one Asthma Capital in 2010 and 2011. In other words, Richmond is the most challenging place in the U.S. to live with asthma because of “a higher than average pollen score, continued poor air quality, a lack of public smoking bans, high poverty and uninsured rates, and other factors.”
Because of Virginia’s unwillingness to adopt 100 percent smoke free laws, we are among the southern states with high levels of pollution in the air and harsh conditions for folks living with asthma.
Considering nearly 22 million residents in the U.S. have asthma, you likely know several people who are personally impacted by this haunting statistic.
In spite of these facts, Richmond’s cigarette smokers continue to suck down a deadly compilation of toxic tobacco that destroys the environment and sends humans into our emergency rooms. Why? So they can “make it through the stress of the day.”
So what are VCU and the city of Richmond doing to assure that students, faculty, staff and members of the Richmond community are practicing more environmentally and socially conscious ways in which we handle public smoking and butt disposal? Not only are Richmond citizens impacted by cigarette smoking, but the environment also takes a huge hit.
Be sure to include in your next research paper that, thanks to cigarette production, one tree is consumed for every 300 cigarettes produced. Because 5.6 trillion cigarettes are produced every year worldwide, tobacco production and consumption devours around 18.6 billion trees every year, according to a 2008 news letter by Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights.
And to top off the destruction of the Earth, “Take a Stand” by the Well reports that 1.7 billion pounds of cigarette butts are littered per year, with 176 million pounds of discarded butts in the U.S. each year. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the U.S., blanketing our sidewalks, nature trails, rivers, gardens and all other natural resources.
Effective August 1, 2010, all VCU residence halls were smoke-free and there was “no smoking permitted within residence hall bedrooms, common areas, hallways, stairwells, outdoor walkways, balconies, courtyards, or within 25 feet of all residence hall entrances.”
Virginia began requiring most establishments that serve food to ban smoking indoors. The exceptions to the ban are members’ only establishments, but public establishments must establish outdoor smoking areas that are completely closed off from the non-smoking area topped off with a separate ventilation system from the non-smoking areas. This ban improves the health of patrons, but can easily lead to more pollution if butts are not disposed of properly.
There is absolutely no doubt that quitting smoking is a difficult and stressful process to endure. The Well at VCU provides services to our students to help you with your experience in tobacco cessation. Free quit kits are provided to VCU students, and the Virginia State Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) is also free. There is even a program for LGBTQ students who are heavily targeted and exploited by marketers in the tobacco industry offered by the Well.
Think twice before lighting up that next cigarette.