In small but meaningful increments, America is moving toward the smoke-free society envisioned by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and not a day too soon. As you read these words, one American will die as a result of a smoking-related illness. By the end of the day there will be 1,000 smoking-related deaths in this country -- with tobacco killing, all told, more Americans each year than World War II did in four.
The barrage of reports during the 1980s -- substantiating the cancer-causing effects of smoking on smokers as well as on those who breathe second-hand smoke, has kicked off a quiet revolution. Walk through downtown at noon. There, hovering in doorways and alleyways, are the smokers getting a puff. Many offices and banks and businesses now are smoke free.
This, curiously, is uniquely American. Smoking continues undiminished in Europe and Japan, as well as in Third World countries. But in this country, which coined the term, "smoke-free," the list of smokeless areas is still growing. Now Johns Hopkins University joins the list with a stringent new policy: As of July 1, no one will be allowed to smoke in any facility owned or leased by the university -- not only classrooms and common areas but also residence halls, university-owned apartments and vehicles.
There are, of course, hundreds of students, professors and Hopkins employees who will balk at not having at least designated smoking areas. But Hopkins' commitment to providing a healthy environment for everyone who lives and works there amply justifies the policy.