The Smoke Monsters

Towards the end of last school year the University of South Florida adopted a no tolerance policy on the use of tobacco products on campus. This ban covered products ranging from cigarettes to pipes to hookahs to vaporizers/e-cigs, and was an attempt to improve the appearance and health of the university campus. Naturally there was outcry from those who were opposed to the change in policy that would lead to the removal of their sacred smoking allowed areas, and they showed their displeasure with the policy by vandalizing the signs announcing it, disregarding the current policy of specialized smoking areas, and even organizing a protest ‘smoke out’ in front of the library. Alas, all these actions meant nothing to the policy makers and the ban went into full effect. Yet we still have a large population of smokers on campus. Walk around on a week day and you will find them in small congregations, typically where there was previously a smoking allowed area.

The smokers have been painted as the monsters in this narrative by largely nonsmoking populace, and they have accepted this role and thrived in it.

Their bodies have become their political statement against the infringement the university has tried to place on their autonomy with its modernist policies. Imbibing the smoke from their chosen products, allowing it to become a part of both their physical and societal body, taking in and willingly becoming the ‘toxin’ that society wishes to throw a tarp over and forget rather than facing and accepting.

They have thus far escaped their pursuers and lived to threaten the bounds of society another day, as all monsters do. They have not let themselves be silenced or their fires dampen, they still fight against this final policy that has finally and firmly planted them as monsters in the university ecosystem. By not giving in and remaining monstrous the smokers have kept the issue alive and on the minds of those who try to shape society.

Furthermore they challenge the categorization placed upon them. They are not simply “smokers”, the smoker body is comprised of student, faculty, family, researchers, and so on. The smoker can not be written off anymore as this easy to label problem organism that fits a simple taxonomy, and by creating a ban so wide and unyielding policy makers have made the definition even more muddled and messy.

The smokers have accepted their differences with society, but do not seek to destroy or leave it. They wish to be re-allowed into the society that created them and then discarded them when it became unfashionable. They know that they are unlike those who mark them other, but not by much. Their sheer presence and actions infect all who come close with their haze. Most of the campus population is part smoke, either from the campus smokers or another source.

Then they were already placed on the fringes of society by being sequestered away from main thoroughfares by placing the allowed smoking areas behind or on the sides of buildings on lesser used side paths. The smokers were used as guardian monsters to deter others from walking paths typically used by university workers, and by Moffit to use high modernist science to define what is and is not a proper form of health.

The fear of the smokers a misplaced desire that has given them greater power of autonomy. By ignoring the policy they have become rule breakers, rebels, something more powerful than a policy maker, and that idea of power is the lure and mystique that draws people to engage with monsters. The smokers are also under attack by the university’s desire for a good appearance. Instead of maintaining or updating the less aesthetically desirable portions of campus, or instilling  policies that do not target groups of peoples, the university saw this as an attempt to rid itself of a monster infestation that had outlived its fashionability and use to fulfill it’s desire.

These smoke monsters are the children of society and should not be banned for their existence, they are our monsters and should be taken care of as such. And as monsters, they will bring change.

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