Originally published in The Current
There is a line in Sofia Coppola’s classic romance, “Lost in Translation,” where the lay-about vixen Scarlett Johansson is chided by her photographer-boyfriend for smoking, saying, “It’s so bad for you.” Well, he’s right. We know that it is.
And she shrugs her response, which is probably one of the most honest and genuine responses ever articulated by a 20-something in a cinematic sequence: “I’ll quit later.”
Yes, those three little words. I’ll. Quit. Later.
This is the phrase every smoker utters beneath their breath in their prime hours. The very notion that we can rebound from an intense junk fix at a time of our choosing, that we can become responsible citizens as soon as we’re done enjoying cracking open that tall-boy every morning, that we can still go on building cars the way we want, that we don’t have to recycle anything, and that we have all the time in the world to indulge in our vices before they destroy us completely.
It is the fallacy of youth, the voice of the inexperienced experiencer.
But time is a rough beast. For smokers, that time has been slouching toward UM-St. Louis and has officially arrived. “Later” has finally become “now.”
Starting in Jan. 2010, UM-St. Louis will begin implementing regulations to become a “smoke-free” campus. Initially, smokers will be required to smoke 20 feet away from all building entrances. By 2014, the entire campus will be entirely smoke free. This is still a country for old men; they just can’t smoke here.
I, personally, have only smoked for a few years and am currently locked in the Johansson phase of denial. However, I’m perplexed that some higher-up decided to make this issue one of necessity.
Granted, all freedoms must be observed, including our non-smoking brethren. The freedom, for example, to breathe clean air through the commons, or not to be blinded by a row of yellowed teeth parading through the hallways (although some of us could lose our addiction to coffee as well). But how is it that smoking has offended the students here? How does it endanger the lives of our faculty?
Smokers are already designated to smoke outside, where they can usually be seen huddled in groups, sending smoke signals to like-minded individuals. The smoke expunges from their darkened lungs, dances furiously into the air, and dissipates into pure memory. The campus stopped all smoking indoors in the early 90s and rightfully so. But smoking outside poses no serious threat to non-smokers.
Relax, UM-St. Louis board. Your children are safe. Why not try to protect us from serious evils: frat parties and popped-up collars on polo shirts, or Mariah Carey songs played on the student radio.
Cut us some slack. If you’re going to take something away, at least replace it with something, like better food in The Nosh or cheaper text books. Or how about halting tuition increases or returning our gratuitous Metro passes?
You know, Obama is one of us. We know he sneaks out to the presidential limo for a quick fag on occasion. Would you force Barack Obama to smoke 20 feet away from all entrances? I don’t think so. Don’t make us write to him. He’s our man-on-the-inside. Let us continue to smoke at our leisure, respectively, outdoors on campus. Give us liberty. Or give us cheaper tuition. And we’ll decide to quit on our own; later.