Looking back: Clear the smoke

This Throwback Thursday, WSS Intern, Camille Gretter '23 looks back on an article from 1979 about the ban on smoking.

Clear the smoke by the West Side Story Editorial Board September 7, 1979

By administrative decree, cigarettes will no longer smolder on school property. The new ban on student smoking is more than a rule; it’s a law.

Though in recent years it has not been enforced, state law prohibits the use of tobacco by students. According to Section 279.9 of the Code of Iowa, the board of directors may suspend or expel any student for violation of this rule.

To deliberately ignore on-campus smoking may have seemed more in keeping with individual rights and freedoms. But to look the other way and actually provide a location for an illegal activity is a ticket to trouble.

Concern for students’ health is the motive behind both the state and school rules. Cigarette smoke has been proven to be harmful and even fatal to the system. Outlawing it in the schools is an attempt to discourage the formation of a bad habit that could be a lifetime addiction. The heavier the smoker, the shorter the lifetime.

Littered school grounds, messy drinking fountains and smoke-filled bathrooms are all physical damages caused by the use of cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The atmosphere is not to be tolerated by the smokers, non-smokers, parents, teachers and visitors.

Smokers are being restricted in their habits everywhere; in restaurants, elevators and public places. The reason is to improve general health. Getting the smoke out of school is a start to a more sensible lifestyle.

Reflecting on the smoking ban at West High

The use of products that contain nicotine have never really died down within a high school. Although the source of the drug can change, the use of it doesn’t. The student handbook now has a whole section dedicated to the use of substances, when it used to just be mentioned among other guidelines. It makes me wonder: Has the use of substances in our school gotten worse?

Most high schoolers are familiar with the trend of vaping. The brand JUUL sells pods for their vaporizers that contain more nicotine than twenty cigarettes. So why are kids still doing this?

Vapes started as a way for cigarette smokers to quit, but a turned into a way for young adults and teens to get a buzz, and try to look cool by blowing out a cloud of smoke. 

Obviously, what people do with their body is their choice. It’s when the habits are brought into a high school that it gets to be a tricky situation. School bathrooms are very popular places to spot students vaping. With no cameras and stalls to hide themselves in, it’s a secure spot. Still, teachers bust them. Everyone uses the bathroom, so if a teacher walks in just to use the restroom and sees smoke coming out of a stall, they will start to be suspicious. 

As a freshman, I haven’t been here long enough to experience all of the ways the school tries to prevent this. What I have noticed are the posters hanging up on the girls’ bathroom doors. The posters would have bathroom-related jokes referring to students vaping in the restrooms. 

Just like the food and injury guidelines, administrators just want the students to be safe.”

— Camille Gretter '23

Where some high schoolers see this as an authority move, it’s all for health purposes. Just like the food and injury guidelines, administrators just want the students to be safe. Nicotine attacks a growing brain, and the aerosol being emitted has proven to adversely affect a teen’s lungs.

West High’s tolerance for smoking has not changed in the last 41 years, and won’t change for many more. However, the way it is being enforced is no longer stopping students from still doing it.