University as BIG BROTHER?

I never cease to wonder at the strange, sometimes ridiculously inculcated rules and regulations in institutions of higher learning having to do with everything from restraints on speech to the use of physical facilities. A student learns early (or else) that there are some words or terms that simply can’t be uttered or written, lest he wind up in some kind of kangaroo-court and consequently face expulsion, if not outright criminal charges or one of those awful group-therapy conclaves. Or...he may face big-time trouble if he expresses an opinion that can bring down the wrath of both students and faculty who subscribe to the absolute requirement in all venues of sophistication that political-correctness must be observed at all costs.

Like most other universities, in which the faculties/administrations dwell on the Left fringes, the University of Kentucky, for example, has just made it official that no one may smoke on any ground or sidewalk or roadway owned by the university. I’m not a smoker, so this circumstance obviously wouldn’t apply to me, but it reeks of the socialistic approach to everything, to wit, that punishment is the vehicle for bringing about any change, whether needed or not. The university has every right to ban smoking within its buildings. It owns both the structures and the elements therein...everything.

However, on the outside, it owns only that which is tangible – the turf, concrete, asphalt, etc. It owns not one cubic centimeter of atmosphere outside those physical parameters. In other words, it does not own the air above or around any of those things, and the atmosphere is the location of the smokers exhaust. One might argue that laws prescribe the amount of exhaust allowed with regard to vehicles and indeed many elements of pollution. These apply to the atmosphere that everyone owns, so why not tobacco smoke?

There may be some validity – however vague – to the claims that secondhand smoke within buildings is harmful. Granted! Both owners and governments have taken notice of this and banned smoking in buildings. No thinking person, however, would claim that outside-smoking is harmful to anyone except the smoker. Consider: To heat many if not most of its buildings, the university utilizes a huge coal-fired facility that spews megatons of carbon into the air, although the actual amount most likely appears nowhere in UK public documents. Or...the university owns scores of vehicles and other machines that constantly spew pollutants as they are used 24/7 in carrying out campus upkeep, policing, transportation, etc.

To come close to the amount of pollution emanating from both the big furnace and the vehicles, there would probably be needed some 100 million or so smokers all doing the chain-smoke thing 24/7. Ironically, however, there are absolutely no regulations even pertaining to the amount of tobacco smoke allowed in the atmosphere...nothing such as the regulations that require coal-fired power-generating plants to install scrubbers and other purifying equipment costing millions in Kentucky alone.

So...why all the hassle about outside smoking – simply punishment leveled at people who are doing no harm? It’s the “Big Brother” syndrome that causes ridiculousness such as this. The university is saving people from themselves by making them either quit or cut down and, more importantly, saving the taxpayers money because smokers wind up getting sick and the state has to take care of them, notwithstanding that the potential costs of the years they forfeit because of their habit sort of offset the actual cost anyway.

The big thing in Kentucky now is not smoking anyway. The “Big Brother” syndrome has kicked in with respect to what’s probably a much greater danger than smoking – OBESITY. Only a small percentage of people at the university smoke, but the United Health Foundation said this month that 30.2% of Kentuckians are obese and that if the rate continues to increase they will eventually cost the state some $6 billion or $1,836 per adult in health-care spending. The same report indicated that smoking is on the decline in Kentucky, now down to 25.2%.

Obesity contributes to all the bad things such as diabetes, heart trouble, and high blood pressure. This being the case, one wonders what the university will do to curb obesity on the campus, a far greater health consideration than anything tobacco causes. These obese people, besides shortening their own lives, pose an even greater threat to the taxpayer, while the smoker population continues to dwindle, down 40% from 35.3% in 1990 to what it is now and dropping.

One supposes the university could mandate the amount of space (atmosphere) anyone on campus can occupy, perhaps based on the body-mass measurements found on charts in the offices of physicians. Students taking up too much space will just have to go home. Obese people (especially faculty) would huff and puff much more carbon dioxide into the air than skinny people, so should they be allowed only so many breaths an hour? After all, Al Gore said the polar bears depend upon this.

Foolish? Of course! The outside smoking ban is even more foolish. Even more foolish is the notion that “Big Brother” has the responsibility to determine what can and can’t be eaten. People don’t always use common sense in what they do, but as long as they don’t hurt anyone else they should be left alone. After all, is it fair to discriminate against tobacco-smokers by not persecuting non-smoking tobacco- users...those guys that spit all over the campus, even during baseball games?

Egad! What’s it coming to? The university belches enough CO2 to make any global-warming, climate-change nutcase blanch, but lowers the boom on a guy just taking a smoke. What a laugh!