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University of Tennessee Knoxville Smoking Ban Shows How Far We've Come

I couldn’t help but chuckle when the University of Tennessee announced its upcoming ban on smoking. I suspect any other geezer who attended UT in the mid-1960s did likewise.

Starting Aug. 1, the entire Knoxville campus goes smoke-free. As in every square inch of the place. If thou be anywhere on university property, thou shalt not light up. No exceptions.

The new decree defines smoking as “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, electronic cigarette, pipe or other lighted tobacco product.”

(Which begs the obvious question: What about a joint? That’s not a tobacco product. Oh, wait. Marijuana already is illegal, which explains why pot is as rare on campus as beer and liquor. So forget I mentioned it.)

More: University of Tennessee Knoxville to launch smoke-free campus policy, beginning Aug. 1

The new prohibition is way overdue, of course.

Several other campuses in the UT system, including Chattanooga and Memphis, already are smoke-free. In fact, no-smoking regulations throughout the entire country fall under the heading of Old News. You’d be hard-pressed these days to find an office building, eatery, manufacturing plant, store or any other public place where puffing is permitted.

For that our lungs are grateful.

Our clothes, too.

Smokers have no idea how they reek — and your Uncle Marlboro speaks as a former member of the Bic-flick brigade. Every time I walk past someone who radiates the vaporous remains of tar and nicotine, I shake my head in both awe and embarrassment: Holy moly! Did I smell that bad back in the day?

E-cigarettes, commonly referred to as vaping, are now the most commonly used form of tobacco by youth in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Albina Sportelli/

But it takes something like a campus-wide smoking ban to make me realize how accepted the practice once was. And how things have changed.

This is as outdated as a ’64 Chevy Malibu, but we used to smoke in class at UT. I’m serious. Students and teachers alike. Prof might be standing at the blackboard (another antiquity) puffing away as his pupils did the same while scribbling in their notebooks (see previous antiquity citation) at their desks.

What idiocy, at least when viewed from the distance of several decades. How non-smokers managed to see and breathe in the haze, let alone concentrate on the lecture, is a mystery.

More: Free resources, events to help smokers quit

Yet, amazingly, that’s the way it was. Not only in college classrooms but dang near everywhere else.

Newsrooms were particularly foul. I even remember one summer when our interns presented their journalistic mentors with ceramic ashtrays in the shape of a typewriter (antiquity beyond measure) with their names spelled out on the “paper.”

Can you imagine?!

Makes me wonder what socially accepted practice of 2018 will be considered equally disgusting 50 years down the pike.

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