The smoking ban on campus has created a subculture in the only area where smoking is allowed — the smoking tree in front of the Subway and CC’s on campus.
The tree is on private property, so the ban on campus excludes this one area, and smokers have taken full advantage of it. They can be seen daily sitting on the bench located under the tree and blowing a smoke cloud into the air.
Olyvia McDonald, a soil and water major who is working on her bachelor’s degree, said the tree has created a subcultural among smokers on campus.
“It became a noticeable area where the same people hung out,” said McDonald about the tree. “In my view, it did become its own sort of community because we all started to get to know each other and started to hang out with one another.”
Meghan Gaspard is an accounting major returning for her second degree this semester and is a member of the smoking tree community. She said she enjoys the tree being there, but it takes getting used to not being able to smoke on campus.
“My entire first degree you could smoke anywhere. I mean teachers were smoking outside the building with students. You didn’t have to walk far. It was just a common thing,” said Gaspard. “Now, I know that teachers and students go on like the streets to smoke; it’s changed a lot to be honest.”
Tracey Slaughter, owner of Elite Vapors, which is located on the second floor of the building containing Subway, said she doesn’t care for the tree at all.
“I guess I can appreciate the fact that there is a designated smoking area for a school with a smoke-free campus, but I don’t appreciate the fact that its right outside my store,” said Slaughter. “My customers have to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke to come to my store.”
Slaughter cited concerns with not only her health, but her customers’ health.
“I quit smoking a long time ago; second-hand smoke is far worse for you than first-hand smoke,” said Slaughter. “You actually inhale a lot more worst carcinogens — poisons, tars and toxins — off of second-hand smoke than you do actually smoking a cigarette yourself.”
“I almost feel bad for everybody else because we’re super cool and we’re like a little family, and its like they’re missing out on it,” said Gaspard. “Whenever it was OK to smoke on campus you were just lighting a cigarette and going to class and you weren’t really speaking to anyone.”
Kendrick Cooper contributed the visual elements to this story.