As a student of George Mason University, I take pride in our beautiful campus, the diverse student body and the unique learning opportunities I have here.

I had the pleasure of being here when we made our NCAA Final Four debut a few years ago.

Nothing can describe the pride I felt as our school was catapulted into the national limelight.

The US News and World Report #1 “School to Watch” ranking was the icing on the cake, so, naturally, I came back here to pursue a Master of Public Health degree.

Over the course of this year, my pride in our great institution has somewhat dwindled as I grapple with a public health issue on campus that does not seem to have an end in sight.

Nonsmokers should not be subjected to secondhand smoking as they enter and exit buildings on campus.

Smoking should not be permitted in the immediate vicinity of building entrances and exits.

Students have a right to smoke if they choose — as ill-advised as that may be — just as I have a right to enter and exit buildings on campus without inhaling their harmful smoke.

The debate has gone on long enough.

The consequences of secondhand smoking are not a mystery.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke contains at least 250 known toxic chemicals, including more than 50 that can cause cancer.

Secondhand smoking leads to heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and a number of health conditions in children. ­­More than 126 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke in homes, vehicles, workplaces and public places.

A college campus should not be one of them.

The Cleveland Clinic Tobacco Treatment Center reports that secondhand smoke exposure causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700 to 69,600 heart disease deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.

Granted, the amount of secondhand smoke I am exposed to on my twice-a-week trips to campus may not be enough to lead to any of these diseases.

But, for students who spend more time on campus or those with underlying chronic conditions, it can and often does trigger and/or exacerbate allergies, asthma, chronic coughing, phlegm, wheezing, chest discomfort, lowered lung function, sneezing, eye irritation, headaches, severe lower respiratory tract infections (like bronchitis and pneumonia) and nose and throat pain.

In my opinion,the debate on what to do has gone on long enough.

I would like us to be as drastic as some of the local area hospitals in banning smoking on campus completely.

However, I know that both smokers and nonsmokers alike have rights at Mason.

Therefore, it is time to demarcate smoking areas away from building entrances and exits for the student population that wishes to smoke.

Perhaps we can even do this before we host the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment this summer.

It would be rather awkward to have the environmental health advocates espousing the benefits of clean air as they inhale toxic fumes on campus.