The writer H. L. Mencken famously defined puritanism as the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” I am a happy smoker, one of many Penn students who appreciate tobacco as one of the finer things in life, and I deeply resent puritan Dan Bernick’s recent column calling for the University to deny us this simple pleasure — for our own good, no less — by instituting a campus-wide smoking ban.
Particularly offensive is his paternalistic tone: we have made the conscious decision to enjoy our vice — knowing fully well that it might eventually kill us — because we feel that the pleasure and relaxation it brings us outweigh the risks.
I myself find it a pity that anti-tobacco fanatics, like Bernick, may never know the joys of puffing on a pipe while reading a book on College Green, or of sitting down for a cigar with friends on a Sansom Place patio, but I nevertheless respect their choice to not indulge.
I would ask them to extend us the same courtesy and mind their own business. We neither need their assistance nor Penn’s to quit smoking because we do not intend to quit, and we readily accept higher insurance prices and other opportunity costs as the price of the pleasant lifestyle that smoking affords us.
Bernick’s second-hand smoking argument is also trite rubbish. We have already been driven out into the elements by people of his ilk. Considering that several very busy roads run straight through Penn’s campus, bathing us all in toxic automobile exhaust, I hardly think that the smoke from a few American Spirits or a nice cigar makes very much of a difference in the carcinogen content of our air. Perhaps we might resume this discussion when Penn has been cordoned off from all Philadelphia traffic.
If Penn adopted a smoking ban, the only thing in which it would demonstrate leadership would be meddling in the lives of its students. That would be a dubious honor, indeed — especially for a university that makes such a big deal of accommodating every other conceivable group of people.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.