Arab students disagree with American University’s tobacco ban

A new ban on tobacco products has stirred controversy on American University’s campus. The ban is an effort to cleanse the campus environment while limiting the effects of second-hand smoke — but Arab students say they are far from pleased with it.

AU has joined more than 1,200 other campuses nationwide in this initiative, which comes in the wake of an American College Health Association assessment, conducted in the spring of 2011, that showed that “85 percent of college students described themselves as non-smokers (never smoked or have not smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days); 92 percent reported being non-smokers for hookah/water pipes; and 96 percent described themselves as non-users of smokeless tobacco.”

AU has students from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco and many other Arab countries.

smoking_banAmr Taji Al-Farouki, an international student from Jordan, has been smoking cigarettes for four years. “In Jordan, it’s all about adulthood. When you start smoking tobacco, you’re considered to be a grown man,” he said. Upon his arrival to American University, Al-Farouki was shocked to find that smoking is significantly less than the Arab society he grew up in.

“Back home, almost everyone smokes cigarettes. If you don’t smoke cigarettes, you definitely smoke hookah. It’s a pastime, and it’s a very cultural thing. Here, not so much,” he said.

As he stood on the Kogod Ellipsis, one of three designated smoking areas on campus, Al-Farouki lit up a cigarette and exhaled, seeming relieved. “I don’t understand why AU is doing this. There aren’t that many smokers, and it’s not like we go around blowing smoke into people’s faces,” he said.

Talal Barazi, a Syrian native and international exchange student, echoed Al-Farouki’s sentiments. “When I first heard rumors about the ban, I kept joking about the fact that every Arab student was going to drop out of this school,” he said. Barazi has been smoking for six years, since the age of 13. In addition to relieving his stress, he said, smoking allows him to step away take a short break from his busy schedule.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “To us, tobacco is cultural, and it is a personal choice. Why take that away from us?”

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