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Statewide smoking ban for public institutions to be proposed to Board of Regents

By Danielle Gamble
On June 18, 2012

The Ohio Board of Regents will vote on a resolution this month that would urge a ban on tobacco use at the state’s 23 community colleges and 14 universities.

Supporters of the proposed tobacco prohibition include Board of Regents Chancellor and former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro. President Lloyd Jacobs has remained neutral.
Some smokers, like senior music education major Gary Gorton, are unfazed by the idea of UT imposing a ban.

Gorton, a pack-a-day smoker, said he agrees with the health-conscious attitude behind the resolution, but he believes lack of enforcement will continue to encourage policy-breaking.

“I can say that this will serve as a nuisance, but nothing more,” Gorton said. “I learned to like the atmosphere of a smoke-free restaurant, and I can learn to appreciate a smoke-free campus.”
However, Gorton said equating a smoke-free environment with a clean one might be an exaggeration.

“The risks associated with secondhand smoke from a passing smoker while outside are insignificant compared to other air pollutants, especially in this area,” Gorton said.

Other smokers like Kelli Ketring, a junior majoring in history, oppose any tobacco restrictions, including the ones already in place.

“Once you’re in college, you’re an adult — this isn’t elementary school,” Ketring said. “Unless smoking becomes illegal, I don’t think they should restrict smoking outside.”
Taylor Meek, a junior majoring in criminal justice, said he thinks a resolution from the Board of Regents about smoking is inappropriate.

“While I don’t agree with people smoking, it’s not right to restrict someone from doing something that is their personal choice,” Meek said.

For tobacco users who live in dorms, the problem of living on a campus could make their home-away-from-home feel less comfortable.

Nathan Leroux, a sophomore majoring in religious studies, said a smoking ban could make students who live in dorms feel less at home.

“A complete ban on smoking really does dictate how some people live, and that isn’t right,” Leroux said.

While Gorton is sympathetic, he doesn’t think the policy would hinder residents too much.

“One could say smoking is a legal thing, so let the dorm residents do it,” Gorton said. “But at the same time, drinking is legal and I believe that even if you’re 21 years old most dorms don’t allow you to drink in them. This [alcohol] policy isn’t weird because there’s a precedent for it. If we make that switch with smoking, people will get over it.”
Regardless of their views on a ban, many students said the current policy of designated smoking areas is broken.

“I’ve never used the butt huts,” Gorton said. “In the time it takes for me to walk to a butt hut, I could have already finished a cigarette, and since I’m usually trying to squeeze them in between classes when time is a constraint, it’s just not convenient.”
Gorton said he will continue to smoke on campus wherever he wants until he is issued a ticket.

Meek is against the current UT policy, saying the designated smoking huts were “a waste of money.”
“It is just another way the institutions are getting involved in peoples’ personal lives and decisions,” Meek said.

Ashley Klein, a senior majoring in music education and vocal performance, said most of the people she has seen adhering to the tobacco policy are younger students who believe there are consequences to violating it.

Currently, the university has no punishments for those who use tobacco outside designated areas.

Klein, a nonsmoker, said while she saw fewer people smoking last year, she also saw countless students disregard the current campus tobacco policy.

“I guess they do it because they’re lazy, or they think they’re above the rules,” Klein said. “I think if there were repercussions, that might deter people from smoking on campus. The system we have now would work better if people knew what happens if they violate it, and if something actually happened.”
Klein said once more students discover the flexibility with the system, they will abuse it more frequently.

Gorton said if there was a way to enforce a complete smoking ban, it would make a big difference.

“I know I would smoke less if I had to leave campus every time I wanted a cigarette,” Gorton said. “Ultimately, I’d either smoke less or be on campus less, and the latter really isn’t feasible.”
Gorton said tobacco-free campuses are becoming more acceptable.

“The country’s kind of moving in that direction anyway, with the new laws against smoking in bars or restaurants,” he said. “I think these policies will get people to smoke less, but I don’t think it will get them to quit.”

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