Kent State of Wellness working with USG on smoke-free initiative on campus

Nya Coleman

“Let’s clear the air.” Those are the words that you can find on a few new signs around Kent State’s campus. Kent State is officially a smoke-free campus as of July 1, 2017.

Kent State of Wellness has been working with student organizations, the Deweese Health Center and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) to bring the smoke-free initiative to campus for two years.

According to Kent State University’s website, “Smoking and tobacco use will not be permitted on any of Kent State’s campuses or other locations and properties that are owned, operated or leased by Kent State, both domestic and international. This includes all areas within Kent State properties, including buildings, grounds, roads, parking lots, recreational areas and sidewalks. Since the policy applies to streets and parking lots, smoking will not be permitted in personal vehicles on university property.”

“There was always a lot of complaints about secondhand smoke and the effects that it could have on their health,” said Nina Darden, USG’s senator for the College of Public Health.

The new policy is not only in effect for students, but for faculty, staff and visitors as well. The policies are not just for smoking cigarettes. Cigars, cigarillos, cloves, hookahs, e-cigarettes, herbal and oil vaporizers, pipes, water pipes and all smokeless tobacco is also prohibited by the new policy.

Many students have mixed feelings on the policy. One student said that even though he is not a smoker, he feels that his friends who are should have to right to do so.

Another student, sophomore psychology major Hannah Kurtz, says it’s good but a bit inconvenient for her.

“I think it’s really helpful because I only smoke sometimes, but now I smoke a lot less because I’m not allowed to smoke on campus,” Kurtz said. But it’s inconvenient when I do want to smoke when I get stressed, which is like all the time because I’m a college student. I have to drive off campus to smoke, which isn’t that bad, but I don’t know my way around, so I’m just driving around on back roads and stuff.”

Even though the smoke-free policy has gone into effect, consequences for smoking on campus have not. There is no authoritative power enforcing the policy.

“Some of the policies are that you can’t smoke on campus, obviously,” Darden said. “And a big discussion has been the enforcement of it. So, there will not be any consequences. There will not be any fines attached to smoking on campus. And I know it’s been kind of questioned whether there should be consequences for smoking.

“It’s just supposed to be more of a culture change and if you do see someone smoking, you can let them know kindly that we are a smoke-free campus and if they have questions you can guide them over to the Kent State of Wellness. The policies will mostly be enacted through dialogue and conversation.”

Because the policy is a voluntary basis, students say, they may not take it seriously.

“If there’s no consequences, honestly, if I was in my car, not in the middle of campus (I would smoke),” Kurtz said. “I wouldn’t just light a cigarette out here, but I park in S-41, so if I was out there, a ways away from everybody, I probably would.”

Both USG and Kent State of Wellness know that this will be a difficult culture transition for the campus but are ready to help in any way they can.

“I think to have the conversation continue is really important,” Darden said. “I know that USG is more than happy to host forums and to have discussions about this, and the Kent State of Wellness is really excited to talk to students about it. So please guide any questions to them. They have all the resources.”

Nya Coleman is a TV2 reporter. Contact her at [email protected].