Response to Callen’s letter


After reading John Callen’s May 7 letter to the editor, “Smoking on campus isn’t the only secondhand health problem,” arguing against a smoking ban on campus, I felt compelled to write a response to Callen’s argument.

To begin, Callen’s letter is firmly rooted in a gross logical fallacy that undermines Callen’s entire argument. Comparing two loosely related things is to commit a logical flaw. In comparing obesity and smoking as both detrimental to one’s health, one could reasonably follow that thought train into infinity, ending up with a call for a giant umbrella over campus because of harmful ultraviolet radiation, and clearly, that’s more than a little unreasonable. During a traffic stop, is telling a police officer that someone else was also speeding a legitimate excuse?

Please allow me to explain why the two are so markedly different.

Firstly, while I wholeheartedly agree that unhealthy eating habits are detrimental to one’s health, I posit that it is not as unhealthy as smoking.

Smoking deposits tar and other gunk into the lungs while inflicting some degree of cell damage on a wide variety of different tissues, from the tongue to the alveoli, some of which is permanent and irreversible. The effects of eating unhealthy foods, however, lack the same permanence and are almost always reversible with improved diet and exercise.

Second, likening the forced exposure of the smell of fast food to secondhand smoke is equally ridiculous. The negative health effects of secondhand smoke exposure are well-documented and irrefutable, whereas the negative effects of so-called “secondhand smell” are nonexistent. Although it may make you hungry for the food product(s) one smells, the negative effects of secondhand smell stop there. With a small helping of self-control, I think you’ll manage just fine.

In summary, although Callen’s argument falsely claims a mutual dependency between the negative health effects of obesity and smoking, the bottom line is such: Secondhand smoke is harmful to other people, period. Absent a food allergy, public consumption of fast food does nothing similar.