Cheney Free Press -

Which smoking habit is Cheney's biggest problem?

In Our Opinion


Amidst the fiery community debate currently swirling in Cheney over a zoning ordinance that would allow a marijuana growing facility, it appears the smoke is clouding, perhaps, a bigger problem.

That’s the illegal smoking of tobacco by those under the age of 18 and some of the problems associated with the activity.

According to the Revised Code of Washington, Chapter 70.155, “A person under the age of 18 who purchases or attempts to purchase, possesses, or obtains or attempts to obtain cigarettes or tobacco products commits a class 3 civil infraction,” with penalties of “community restitution,” if convicted.

Meanwhile, remember that voters passed recreational marijuana Initiative 502 by a 56-44 margin during the November 2012 general election.

The problem the Cheney Free Press editorial board has is primarily with the Cheney School District who appears to condone students smoking when off school grounds. This assertion comes primarily from routinely observing not only the lighting up, but also the littering that accompanies the activities, all without ever seeing authorities a few hundred feet away take action.

According to an email from Cheney High School answering a request for clarification of how the issue of smoking is handled internally, it is naturally prohibited on campus. 

As far as off campus, if the student is under the age of 18, the school resource officer, can write a ticket. Those students can also be hit with in-school suspension if there is more than one incident.

But it seems that whatever is currently being done, it is not enough as significant numbers of students routinely gather near St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church to smoke before and between classes. This is just outside the reach of school officials.

We wonder, too, what the role of the Cheney Police Department is in enforcement of these rules? But we also understand that Cheney PD’s most important duties are to battle larger scale crime and keep citizens safe — not tackling tobacco truants.

Take some time and hang out in areas adjacent to Cheney High School and you’re likely to not only see the smoking, but also cars of students racing through the neighborhood, trying to be on time for class.

But that’s an issue for another day.

There is a periodic law enforcement presence that has been observed. But again, it would seem that the duty here resides with school staff, if not to simply discourage this habit that has not only been proven to be a serious health concern, but also is exceedingly difficult to kick.

During recent testimony from Cheney School District personnel over the cannabis controversy, the question was posed: What kind of message is being sent to kids by allowing a legal grow business to operate in the community?

We have a similar message aimed back at those same officials: Even if they’re 18 and legally able to smoke, what kind of message are they sending by not doing what is needed to keep them from participating in what we know is an activity that is harmful to one’s health?

Why are they, and other teachers and employees not publicly discouraging this practice, the same as they do with pot?

And why is there not the same fervor for another potential addiction like gambling, made legal through the institution of the lottery in Washington state back a quarter-century ago? Both have the same ability to potentially — not automatically — become addictive. But lottery proceeds help, among other things, the state’s schools, don’t they?

But this is about what is legal, and what is not.

We can all probably recite the names of people we know who died way too young after a life of smoking. Or those who tote along an oxygen tank with them wherever they go, lassoed by the attached hoseand hobbled by a bad habit likely picked up from peer pressure while in school.

Having 14, 15, 16 or 17 year-old kids smoking is illegal while like it or not, recreational use of marijuana for adults is not.

Let’s concentrate our energies on what we know is a problem, not just what we fear or think might be.

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