PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13, 2013) — Our praise of the anti-smoking initiative at BCC met with much scrutiny, judging by the numbers and the comments. On campus today, we found unanimous support for the ban, and although our “walking survey” can by no means be considered scientific, it is an indication that 2013 is not 1958, and people have come to expect being able to breathe freely in public places.

We did receive a couple of letters to the editor, one in support and one against:

Dear Mr. Valenti

I find it highly hypocritical of you to support the non-smoking policy at BCC while at the same time you are pictured in a current magazine article smoking a cigar. Which is it? Do you have the authority to tell students to stop smoking when you have one of your prized cigars ablaze? The picture by the way makes you look like a mob boss. Nothing personal of course.Name Withheld by Request

And this one:


Signs like this are routinely ignored by selfish smokers at Berkshire Community College.

We agree completely with the decision by the faculty and administration at BCC to ban all smoking. More and more campuses are going smoke-free across the U.S. In July 2010 420 college campuses were smoke free. A year later the number had risen to 530. As of January 2013 the number is 1,129 (Source, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights). This number is rising rapidly because of the “growing social norm supporting smoke-free environments.”

The strongest points you made are favorites of ours: (1) the insidious nature of second-hand smoke and its demonstrable ability to kill just as quickly as the original smoke coming from the cigarette and (2) students were no observing the 20-foot ban of smoking near buildings. We applaud your efforts in this fight. During spring semester last year, we saw you in action. There were three students smoking away on the quad in front of the library. We had earlier pointed out the policy of smoking near buildings but they ignored us. You were coming out of the library, saw the “discussion,” and you took one of the cigarettes and ground it into the ground. The other two followed suit. That was so cool. I’m sure you remember. — L.F.

—– 00 —–

First, we thank our two letter writers plus all who weighed in on the issue. Allow THE PLANET a brief reply to each letter.

TO NAME WITHHELDWhy is it hypocritical, to be pictured smoking a cigar off campus? We have NEVER lit up a cigar, a pipe, or anything while on campus. To the contrary: We have acted to enforce existing rules to protect non-smokers. The other thing to add is that the picture is posed, and the cigar is a prop. In other words, it’s staged. THE PLANET doesn’t typically sit in a chair in front of city hall dressed in a suit and smoking a cigar.

Moreover, our cigar smoking is limited to an infrequency that assures enjoyment. We smoke only quality, hand-made sticks made with 100% pure, cured, long-filler tobacco. Cigarettes, on the other hand, are made from the chopped up plants rejected for premium use. Moreover, cigarettes are then treated with a long list of chemicals and poisons that create addiction and health problems when ingested inside the human body. Arsenic is one such ingredient. Premium hand-made cigars prohibit such poisoning. When you smoke premiums, you are smoking a plant, Mother Nature.

Like Bill Clinton, we don’t inhale our premiums. We don’t smoke inside, and we don’t smoke where there are others around. We are, in short, highly selective about where, when, and what we smoke.  As for the “mob boss” dig, no offense taken. Typecasting. 

—– 00 —–

TO L.F. — We do remember that incident. And lest people get the wrong idea, please note that in our duties as a faculty member, we are much more concerned about the behavior of our students within the classroom than without. In other words, we don’t go around the campus deliberately looking to, literally, put out fires. However, when we see blatantly, selfish, in-your-face smokers bullying non-smokers, we will speak up. Thanks, also, for the website. It is new to us, and we found that it contains a ton of great information. The link is

A Time for Education … and Facts

While on the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, we learned some interesting facts. We present this digest of the most important:

The number of campuses going smokefree and tobacco-free jumped by leaps and bounds since 2009. The uptick is due in part to the efforts of the American College Health Association (ACHA) which adopted a Position Statement on Tobacco in September 2009 (updated in November 2011) and the social norm change about when and where people smoke as a result of city- and state-wide smokefree laws. In fact:

Therefore, there is a need to protect employees and students from exposure to secondhand smoke on college campuses and create an expectation that this living and working environment be smokefree.

It is also critical to note that the tobacco industry continues to market and advertise its products to young adults in order to maintain its profitability, and the tobacco use and prevalence statistics for young adults demonstrate that the plan is having an effect. One need only look at promotions held in bars across campuses all over the country to realize that 18-24 year olds are important to the tobacco industry. According to the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults:

  • In 2010, there were more than 20 million students enrolled in degree-granting institutions. This does not include faculty, staff, and visitors to campuses who are also impacted by a smokefree or tobacco-free campus policy.
  • Many risk factors, including tobacco use, peak from 18-25 years of age; college attendance could be a turning point in choosing not to use tobacco
  • 24.8% of full-time college students aged 18-22 years old were current smokers in 2010.
  • The number of smokers who initiated smoking after age 18 increased from 600,000 in 2002 to 1 million in 2010.
  • Progression from occasional to daily smoking almost always occurs by age 26.
  • While smoking rates are higher for their peers not enrolled in college, college students and campus policies offer a unique opportunity to create and sustain tobacco-free living.

Curbing tobacco influence on campuses could prevent a new cohort of lifetime smokers.

Students on campuses across the country are leading efforts to refuse tobacco industry sponsorship, grants, donations, and other gifts, as well as passing smokefree campuses policies. Read more about the background and details about these policies. Contact us if you would like assistance.

Attention Students! Take a stand for smokefree air. 
Become an ANR member today and take advantage of our student membership discount. Click here to learn more!

There is No Down Side

Looked at through the lens of health and preventative well-being, reducing smoking in public places, and encouraging people to stop smoking cigarettes, is one of the most positive, pro-active, least costly strategies a community can adopt. There is no down side. No one has the right to engage in activity that harms an innocent second party. As the website says, “Curbing tobacco influence on campuses could prevent a new cohort of lifetime smokers.”

THE PLANET is proud to promote this life-saving effort, and we applaud the administration of Berkshire Community College for taking this stance.


“Dignity shines in old brick and old dirt, / in elms and houses now hurt beyond all hurt. / A broken square, where little lives or moves; these are the city’s earliest and tenderest loves.”Conrad Aiken




  1. FPR
    March 13, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    Hey Dan,

    Great little article today. I agree. I quit smoking 29 years ago. I used to smoke Marlboro – two packs a day. Can’t stand smoking to this day. My grandfather and my mother both died from smoking.

    Its a horrible thing when you can’t breathe. Watching a close relative gasping for air is most unpleasant.

    Interesting your comparison to quality cigars as opposed to cigarettes. Cigarettes are highly addictive – even more-so than heroin. Filled with toxic chemicals yes. Anyone who smokes cigarettes in this day and age must have a death wish.

    My comments yesterday about the coolness factor is from a bygone era. I know your picture above is staged lest anyone think otherwise. It makes you look mayoral.

    “Don’t Smoke….. I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition”
    – The Beatles
    – Get Back sessions/Apple rooftop/London

  2. Ron Kitterman
    March 13, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    Would have to agree with FPF and the Professor on this one, it’s been 12,792 days for me ( 35 yrs ) outside influence is definitely a factor advertising, movies, TV sadly the guns aren’t being looked the same as the cancer sticks. Looks like the 2’nd trumps the 1’st but who knows.

  3. tito
    March 13, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    @ Ron, remember t v detective Sgt. Friday lighting up on Dragnet?

  4. Gene
    March 13, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I was a smoker through my teens and 20s. I realized as I hit 30 that it was making me sick, affecting appetite, breathing, lungs, etc. I went cold turkey. Good article, DV.

  5. Ron Kitterman
    March 13, 2013 at 9:02 am #
    Jack Webb Just the Facts Ma’am

  6. FPR
    March 13, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Do as I say not as I do:×416.jpg

  7. Kevin
    March 13, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    I am so sick of smoker bashing and Big Brother. A Smoker with a pack a day habit is paying close to $5 in Government tax per pack and yet many people still choose to smoke…..Why BECAUSE IT IS STILL A FREE COUNTRY(Well at least that’s said over the door). I am against any government bans where the people have no say and bureaucracy dictates policy. My concern and I am somewhat surprised Dan that you do not have the same concern relates to WHERE DO THESE BANS STOP? No more 16 oz soda (Ya Know so much sugar is bad for you, so NYC bans certain cup sizes, Alcohol is a very bad drug, DWI’s, Domestic Violence, Children sometimes can access it OOOOOh lets ban Alcohol as well. Oh and guns lets make it illegal to have a capacity of more than 7 rounds(NYS 1/2013) effective immediately making every off duty cop a criminal as well as law abiding citizens.) The path to Hell was paved with good intentions just like these bans….Dan please remember your Libertarian leanings you are scaring me

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      I respect your concerns and share some of them. Keep in mind, though, that the action at BCC was not government ordered. This came at the initiative of faculty, backed by the administration, and supported by students. This was democratic action, not a dictum from big Brother. We need to keep our heads and discriminate the different between the kind of draconian social engineering you mention and reasonable pre-emptive action to promote health and well being.

  8. Ron Kitterman
    March 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks Kevin excellent post, I love it when someone opens the door and reminds us to stick to our values like you did with your post. Ridiculous laws erode respect for all law. Proposals to Regulate bake sales at schools, the Pay As You Drive’ Bill, terminating Cops and Fireman for smoking, 16 oz. limit on sodas. We see daily how well high school student in front of PHS pay attention to not smoking. First they came for the cigarettes, next the guns and who knows where it will stop. Government shouldn’t solve these problems, it should come from us individually. It will be interestng to watch the enforcement from the Professor when someone lits up next August.

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

      It’s not the government that banned smoking at BCC, but the school itself. It was local governance at its best. It will shut down the behavior of a small minority of students, behavior that has been proven to be deadly to others.

      • Kevin
        March 15, 2013 at 6:02 am #

        I have stopped smoking myself, I agree if the community has a say and bans are not brought in under secrecy then Marjory rules. It’s not about smoking so much as the erosion of our liberties that concerns me, I still pissed about the seatbelt law, the people did not want it but the government imposed it on us anyway….

        • danvalenti
          March 15, 2013 at 7:04 am #

          I congratulate you on your choice to stop smoking. Good show!

  9. Jonathan Melle
    March 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Cigarettes are cancer sticks. Pittsfield’s toxic waste PCBs cause cancer in many thousands of local residents. Between smokers and PCBs, Pittsfield has too much cancer.

  10. Still wondering
    March 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Luckily we have no Jonathan Melle.

    • Jonathan Melle
      March 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      At least I don’t cause cancer like cigs & PCBs!

  11. Scott
    March 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Why stop at cigarettes booze has a potential negative effect on those who choose to do it in excess and the people who happen to be around them. Booze kills 80,000 people a year (according to the cdc.)

    • Dave
      March 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Milk is good-milk is bad, eggs are good-eggs are bad, alchohol is good(a glass of wine a day extends your life studies show-red I think)-alchohol is bad. Eat organic because its good-Marijuana is bad. The President(D) is good say the Democrats-The President(D) is bad say the Republicans. The President(R) is good say the Republicans-the President(R) is bad say the Democrats. Our only hope is that Dennis Rodman becomes President so we can all just get along and live baby–just live!

    • Ed Shepardson
      March 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Cigarettes kill 500,000. More. And by the way, pot kills zero.

      • Dave
        March 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        Guns kill zero, alchohol kills zero, cars kill zero, bad decisions, bad decisions using in excess, and faulty equipment(engineered not by the cars but people) or bad decisions while using kills! And by the way, do cigarettes majically appear or do we produce them. And do we blame the shooting death of a police officer after a high speed crash that killed an innocent family on the way home from the movies on the car, the gun, or the pot the person being chased was delivering when he crashes into said family at an intersection, gets out shoots the cop chasing him, oh and by the way he was drunk too.

  12. FPR
    March 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Dan – New Pope!

    Time to smoke a cigar to celebrate.
    Just wondering, is the white smoke coming out of the Vatican considered second hand smoke that causes cancer?

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      Habemus Papem! We have an investigative unit assigned to the white smoke that issued from the Vatican, even as we speak!

  13. Mr. X
    March 13, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    Heavy Kevy-
    Smoke all the cigs you want, 2 at a time if you like, in your home, your car, anywhere you are not blowing your smoke around people in public places who don’t want to breathe it. It’s not like smokers have helped to drive health care costs thru the roof. I’ll bet DV would not light up one of his prized ceegars in a public place in unwilling people’s faces.

    • bobbyd
      March 14, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      Tobacco is an easy target, but it is hardly the only–or even the worst–source of particulate matter emissions.

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

      MR. X
      You are correct, sir. I have never torched one of my precious primos in a public place where there were other people. Our smokes are enjoyed in private.

  14. tito
    March 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Thanks a lot Barry for blowing smoke with your million dollar fiasco, Mrs. Banke took you to the cleaners.

  15. ambrose
    March 13, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    haven’t smoked in over 50 years but if i ever decide to go back to it and happen to be doing it where i wasn’t supposed to and some faux professor came up and took the cig out of my hand and ground it into the the dirt he would find himself on his ass right next to the butt – very long sentence

    • Rick
      March 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

      Can we move on?……..Please……………

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      You are far too much a gentleman to do something as stupid as that, and you would, in the pinch, refrain from an action that you would regret. I know you too well!

  16. ambrose
    March 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm #


    A Little League in downstate Illinois is holding a fundraising raffle in which the prize is the same style of assault rifle used in the Newton, Connecticut shootings

    • Scott
      March 14, 2013 at 7:08 am #

      That event was planned before Newton and just like you feel no obligation to not smoke around people who feel it’s harmful to their health the organization has no obligation to cancel a beneficial event because some people view it as offensive, scary or unjust.

      • Scott
        March 14, 2013 at 7:09 am #


      • AMBROSE
        March 14, 2013 at 9:10 am #

        The sentence was pasted from the Chicago Tribune and I made no judgement.

        • Scott
          March 14, 2013 at 9:51 am #

          Me either I used an analogy from your post to make my point.

  17. Giacometti
    March 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    For those interested is taking a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel go to the following web site:

    After viewing the magnificent painting of Michaelangelo in this chapel …..the experience will bring the new Pope a lot closer.

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm #


    • Joe Blow
      March 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that link!

  18. dusty
    March 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Tracy Benson, the PHS principal is leaving. If we follow the normal school committee mind set we need to give the new one coming in at least a $20,000 raise. It is the Pittsfield way.

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

      Yes, at least $20,000 but preferably more.

  19. Stephen
    March 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    I am a student at BCC. I am totally in favor of the smoking ban. I have had several rude encounters with smokers who think they have a right to literally blow smoke in your face. I applaud Prof. Valenti for his actions in getting the smoking ban in effect.

    • danvalenti
      March 14, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      Thank you for your support.