a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

University students hot about smoking ban

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – Editors at the Observer-Reporter periodically send me to California University of Pennsylvania to gather reactions from students about news that could affect their lives.

In many cases, I encounter students who are either unaware or could care less about such things as the declaration of war on Iraq at a time when lawmakers considered reinstating the draft and possibly using them to fill the Army. No one there organized a protest march over that fear.

But don’t take away their right to light up cigarettes at this campus in California, Pa.

Nearly 100 Cal U. students turned out on campus today to oppose a decision to prohibit smoking on the entire campus, even outdoors, under Pennsylvania’s new Clean Indoor Air Act. The law was imposed Thursday, banning smoking in most public places, including bars, restaurants and bingo halls.

The students make a good point when they argue that the decision by the chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education doesn’t make sense because he cites it as reason enough to prohibit smoking altogether at the 14 public universities. Chancellor John Cavanaugh said the schools hold classes and sporting events outdoors, making everything within their confines public places and subject to the new act.

One 24-year-old Cal U. student, Dan John of Uniontown, Pa., who is shown in above photo, complained that the state is assuming too much control over student rights.

Meanwhile, Dalyce Ullom, 19, of Pittsburgh, said her human rights are being violated over the decision.

“How can they tell me not to smoke?” said Ullom, a sophomore at Cal U., where 8,500 students attend classes. “That is legal. If I can buy them, I should be able to smoke them.”

God only knows what could happen in the name of civil unrest if these universities decide to filter out Facebook on their Internet providers.

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