As Arkansas enters the brave new world of restricted public smoking, it is enlightening to see what developed when a major institution in west-central Little Rock prohibited all smoking on its campus.
The institution’s motives were laudable, but one consequence was to prompt hundreds of its employees to leave the campus to smoke. To do so means that the majority of them flee across five lanes of traffic on one of the city’s busiest, most dangerous east-west thoroughfares, one that feeds traffic onto southbound I-430 as well as into the exploding far-west exurbs.
After dodging the Indianapolis Speedway-style traffic zooming both ways on the thoroughfare (around a blind curve for eastbound traffic) these employees huddle around a bus stop to smoke. In cold weather they look like inmates of the exercise yard of Stalag 17 as they shiver and cup their cigarettes. The sidewalks in that area are literally covered with hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts, as well as the other detrius the smokers leave behind as they scurry like armadillos back to their jobs.
The most amazing sight took place during one extremely cold day last winter. In a parking lot on the southern edge of the campus three people had wheeled their aging female relative, still in her wheeled hospital bed and connected to various IV tubes, out into the chill, where all four of them grimly sucked on their contraband smokes.
It was a sobering sight.