KSU prepares for 2017 smoking ban


Rick Nease color illustration of cigarette-butt-filled ashtray sitting on a no-smoking coaster. The Detroit Free Press 2010

Gabrielle Gentile

When Kent State’s smoking ban goes into effect in July 2017, don’t expect hundreds of smokers to be sent to Conduct Court.

The university is counting on promoting health and a culture shift to help ensure acceptance of Kent State as a smoke-free campus. 

Kent State will become the seventh four-year state university in Ohio to go smoke-free, part of a push started by the state Board of Regents in 2012.

The move is a cornerstone of Kent State President Beverly Warren’s


Currently Smoke Free:

Ashland University Bowling Green State University Cedarville University Cleveland State University Central Ohio Technical College Central State University Columbus State Community College Dwight Shar School of Nursing Eastern Gateway Community College Hocking College John Carroll University Malone University Miami University Mount Carmel School of Nursing Mount Vernon Nazarene Northeast Ohio Medical University Notre Dame College of Ohio Ohio Christian University Ohio Dominican University The Ohio State University Ohio University Owens Community College Rhodes State College The University of Toledo Zane State College

Considering/Enacting Smoking Ban:

Belmont College Kent State University Lorain County Community College Shawnee State University The University of Akron Wright State University.

href=”https://www.kentwired.com/latest_updates/article_89ee5b16-8f0e-11e5-bebc-67c0c0898cd4.html”>goal to make the university one of America’s healthiest universities.

The group studied the issue for fours years and decided eliminating smoking was top priority, said Angela DeJulius, director of University Health Services and chair of the Healthy Campus Steering Committee

“It just becomes clear that you can not move forward with any kind of healthy campus until you address smoking and tobacco use,” DeJulius said. “It’s the most immediate and measurable adverse impact on our health that we can do something about. So it just has to be first.”

The policy bans all forms of smoking and tobacco use, including cigarettes, tobacco, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookahs. 





The university will continue to discuss how best to implement the ban, but the policy has been approved by the president’s cabinet and will take effect July 1, 2017.  

The Board of Trustees, which has supported the idea in discussions, could make it university-level policy at its meeting in May, but that isn’t necessary for implementation.

“The goal here is to develop a healthy campus—that’s what we want for Kent State University,” said Kim Hauge, manager of university wellness in the Division of Human Resources. “It’s not something we are still discussing. These are some of the steps that have been decided.”

Policy enforcement

No specific punishment is planned for violating the smoking ban.

Instead, the university is focusing on changing the culture at Kent State to one that does not tolerate smoking or tobacco use.

There is already a university student code of conduct and an employee disciplinary process, DeJulius said. In extreme cases, repeated offenders could be referred to this process.

“We don’t want to make a special punishment or consequence for this,” DeJulius said. “If you are in a campus where these things are prohibited, then you are empowered to speak up and say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that here.’ ” 

Senior public health major Michael Ellison said he believes a fine or ticketing system would send the wrong message, with strict enforcement having more negative consequences than positive outcomes.

“There are schools who do have fines in place, but the police or another service has to ticket these people,” Ellison said. “And that creates a negative atmosphere around this department and leaves potential room for disrespect around the authorities.”  

Cost could become a problem in enforcement, said Deric Kenne, an assistant professor of Health Policy and Management.

“If we have these hard consequences where there (are) ‘cigarette police’ on campus, that is going to be an immediate increase in cost to hire people to do that,” Kenne said. “I think the idea is to have this culture and peer pressure to enforce the policy. I mean, we’ve got 17 or 18 percent smoking (on campus); that is a lot of people who aren’t smoking to be the peer pressure to enforce it.”

Some students say they are not going to enforce the policy.

“Personally, I’m not going to call someone out on it,” said Austin Ross, a senior political science major. “If I wanted to do that, I’d call everyone out on underage drinking.” 

Ellison said he thinks the plan is still a good idea, even if the enforcement will not be strong. 

“Just because it lacks the 100-percent effectiveness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after it,” Ellison said. “Drugs are illegal—everyone knows heroin is very bad—but some people still do heroin. It is about creating a culture where you don’t want to be associated with it, and you’ll police yourself in sense because you live up to these expectations. People will break the rules and will smoke, but if it can affect the majority of the population, then the policy is worth it in itself.”

While the university has not yet decided on official enforcement plans, the committee has been researching how other universities implement and enforce their policies.

Cleveland State University, for example, has a “buddy system.”

Lisa Sandor, well-being program manager in Cleveland State’s Department of Human Resources, said a student tobacco-free organization works in pairs to patrol the campus and let people who are smoking know the university is tobacco free. 

Sanders also said Cleveland State is developing a process to deal with students or employees who frequently violate the anti-smoking policy.

Rollout still a year away

DeJulius said the 2017 starting date will give current smokers a chance to take advantage of programs to help them quit.

“We know it will be essential to the success of the policy to communicate all the resources available,” DeJulius said. “Everyone has time to go through the process of thinking about it and trying it out.”

Some of the steps recommended for the rollout include increasing and promoting smoking cessation programs, creating smoke and tobacco-free signage and communicating the policy to students, faculty and staff. 

Free smoking cessation programs for students are currently available through the Office of Health Promotion. Students can begin the six to eight-week programs at any time and work one-on-one with Scott Dotterer, Office of Health Promotion coordinator, to develop the skills and support needed to quit.

The university is still working to identify any cost related to continuing and expanding the cessation programs. No fee structure has been proposed.

Hauge said employees can take advantage of cessation programs already built into the university health insurance plan. Prescription drugs, which help with the success rate, will be added to insurance.

Campus culture change

University officials understand the success of the policy will be driven by student support. To reflect that, they are focusing on changing the environment at Kent State to be more health-conscious. 

“We want to create a culture where everyone has a chance to be healthy,” said Tina Bhargava, a College of Public Health assistant professor of social and behavioral science and member of the task force. “We understand that nicotine is addictive, so we are really thinking about how do we help people move in a different direction?

“We aren’t saying that everyone needs to quit tobacco right now, right this second. We are saying, ‘How do create a culture where students can be healthier and give people options to be healthier more easily? If they are ready to make the change, we are ready to help support them both students and faculty.”

Graduate English major Christine Olding said she understands the university is working toward a healthy campus initiative but said she feels the policy infringes on her rights.

“I think that it goes against people’s right to express themselves,” said Olding, who is a smoker. “There are already designated smoking areas, which require smokers to stand at least 20 feet away from buildings. (But) telling people (they) can’t do something that is legal on public property is contradictory to our constitutional rights. I understand the health concerns, but I have also never seen a smoker be blatantly disrespectful to other people around them.” 

Financial benefits

Students who oppose the policy say any money spent would be ill-advised. 

“I am here at Kent State to obtain an education,” ­­­Ross said. “I would rather see my tuition dollars put in places like toward my professors, toward my education rather than wasting it on the 17 percent of the population here that smokes. I feel like we’re spending money for a select group of students to get healthy. Why isn’t that money going back to the professors and to my education?”

Members of the task force believe it will save money in the long run.

“I know that we will reap the benefits (of this policy) in many, many ways,” Hauge said. “We spend about $50 million a year on healthcare for our employees and their family members. We are self-insured, so every dime that we spend on healthcare comes out of the Kent State coffers. The more we spend, the less we have for other things to do on campus or for students and for employees.”

Hauge said studies show the university can lose up to $3,200 in productivity a year in sick leave, smoking breaks and other health-related problems for each employee who smokes.

“We are going to reap (the benefits) over and over again by them not smoking,” Hauge said. “It’s simple. The math is done; the research is there. We may spend a little more upfront as an investment, but the employees are going to reap that benefit.”

Preparing for life after Kent

Committee members say the policy will prepare students for the workforce. 

Bhargava said the university is creating an environment that supports students’ future success.

“The goal of the policy is to create an environment that supports health in the same way that society is moving,” Bhargava said. “Many, many workplaces already are or are going tobacco-free to the point where some employers are putting requirements in terms of tobacco use on their employees.The idea is that during this in-between space (college), we are creating a culture that supports the same things that are going to help people be successful as they move forward.”

Organizations like the Cleveland Clinic have very strict tobacco and smoke-free policies. Candidates will not be hired if they smoke, and employees are fired on the spot if caught, Bhargava said.

Committee members also think the policy would offset tobacco advertising targeted at college-age people. 

“The tobacco industry’s biggest market is 18-year-olds,” Bhargava said. “If they can get brand loyalty from 18-year-olds, they can get brand loyalty for their life. As their share of the market declines, they want to focus in on college students. If they can make little cigarettes or cigars that are fruit or coffee-flavored, they can pull in that market and get people to support them. 

“We want to counter balance that and motivate people to be healthy.”

Gabrielle Gentile is a health reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].