Smoking ban likely to arrive soon for Kent State

Illustration by LaQuann Dawson

Illustration by LaQuann Dawson

Christina Godfrey

For more than two decades, Kent State has slowly been working to ban smoking in certain areas on campus. The efforts may soon result in the prohibition of it altogether.

Since 2012, Kent State’s sights have been set on banning the use of tobacco products, and with the help of its Tobacco-Free Campus Advisory Committee, the issue currently sits with President Beverly Warren.

Warren said being a smoke-free campus is important to project the healthy lifestyles and values Kent State believes in.

“I think Kent State stands for this vibrant, sustainable campus,” Warren said. “I think being a tobacco-free campus fits so nicely into…the core of who we are.”

These policies first began in 1991 when the university prohibited smoking in public areas on campus, including busses and classrooms, which eventually led to the 2007 policy of no smoking within 20 feet of any building on campus — a rule currently still in place.

The Ohio Board of Regents took a stand against the use of tobacco products in 2012 when it recommended all public institutions of higher education in Ohio become smoke-free.

According to the American Lung Association, Ohio boasts 12 universities, like the Ohio State University and Malone University, which fall under the tobacco-free category. Kent State could be next to join them.

What would the policy cover?

Although nothing is set to appear on the agenda for the next Board of Trustees meeting, previous discussions have already produced certain criteria the policy would follow.

Greg Jarvie, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said e-cigs, or electronic cigarettes, would join cigars, cigarettes, pipes or any other devices which burn tobacco on the prohibited list — and Warren agrees.

“Smoking is smoking and whether it’s ‘e’ or whether it’s real, it’s still smoking,” Warren said.

Another point of contention has been exactly where this policy would be enforced on campus. Jarvie said the university’s jurisdiction covers many of the sidewalks that surround campus, so just as the university clears snow in the winter, they would also be enforcing the no-smoking policy there, too.

“You could go across the street and smoke at Taco Bell or wherever else north of (St. Rt.) 59; you could smoke right through the intersection, and once you hit that sidewalk, that technically is our responsibility,” Jarvie said.

Jarvie also said the hardest solution to come up with so far has been a realistic way to enforce the policy and the corresponding consequences.

“Nobody has, what I consider, a real legitimate answer to that yet, because no one wants to have to be running around and be the tobacco police… so that’s probably our biggest hurdle,” Jarvie said.

Mixed Reviews

While the consequences of smoking are clear, some feel a no-smoking policy takes away the rights of smokers at the expense of non-smokers.

Zak Thomas, a sophomore music technology student and smoker, said he believes the choice to smoke is his own alone and forcibly outlawing smoking on campus is invasive.

“What it comes down to is it’s my body — if it kills me slowly, happy for me — it’s none of your business,” Thomas said.

Jorian Ordway, a sophomore exercise science student and non-smoker, said she agrees smokers’ rights are being infringed upon to a certain extent. However, if people abided by the 20 feet policy in the first place, maybe a new policy wouldn’t be needed.

“I’ve noticed that when we get into warmer weather, usually people aren’t standing right by the door as you’re trying to get in. (In winter), you’re like ‘OK. I’m trying to get in, and I really don’t want to breathe in all your smoke,’” Ordway said.

Ordway also said being a student athlete means being health conscious, and although it would be hard for smokers to spend all day on campus without smoking, it may serve as an opportunity to jumpstart them to quit.

Thomas said for him, that wouldn’t be the case.

“Quitting smoking is something that has to come from within; that takes a pretty deep discipline… (and) having a smoking ban isn’t going to do that for you,” Thomas said.

This issue affects all students on campus, and Jarvie said he acknowledges a ban could also deter future students who smoke from choosing Kent State.

“I’m sure there’ll be some people out there that will probably make a decision not to come to Kent State due to the fact that they won’t be able to smoke, but I think you’re going to find that most universities have either gone this route or are going this route,” Jarvie said.

National and International Tobacco Trends

It isn’t just happening on college campuses: Pop culture has embarked on an epic crusade to not only inform the general public on the side effects of using tobacco products but has also tried to associate being cool with not smoking among youths.

Earlier this year, Truth produced a video titled “Left Swipe Dat,” in which celebrities like Grace Helbig and Fifth Harmony use an app similar to Tinder to show the unattractiveness of smoking.Truth, a national anti-tobacco campaign focused on young adults, educates youth on tobacco corporations’ marketing ploys, while helping them make informed decisions through mediums that resonate with them.

Even the FDA has gotten in on the game with “The Real Cost” campaign, which launched in 2014. Much like the Truth campaigns, the FDA actively targets “at-risk youth about the harmful effects of tobacco use…(and) prevent young people who are open to smoking from trying it” through multiple platforms, according to the FDA’s website.

On the HBO television show “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” Oliver discussed the implications of tobacco use abroad and the growing number of countries taking a stand against tobacco companies.

Oliver cites Australia as a driving force in educating the public on the effects of smoking.

“In 2011…Australia’s plain packaging law banned tobacco-company branding from packaging and replaced it with upsetting photos like the toe tag on a corpse, the cancerous mouth, the nightmarish eyeball or the diseased lung,” Oliver said.

Oliver also said that the implementation of these laws resulted in a record low of tobacco consumption for the country.

It isn’t just TV personalities cautioning people about tobacco products. In February 2014, the retailer CVS announced it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in more than 7,600 stores nationwide because “this is the right thing to do,” according to the CVS Health website.

With all of this in mind, Jarvie said he sees the idea of a smoke-free future being inevitable.

“I think it’s just a matter of time where everybody will be smoke-free, and it will become part of the culture,” Jarvie said. “Just as it’s become restaurants and bars, you can’t smoke any place indoors now. That didn’t take long to catch on… Like anything else, once you implement (and) give it a little time, people will understand.”

American Lung Association’s Tracking Progress

*According to the American Lung Association, “This list does not include colleges with ‘smokefree campus’ policies that do not address other forms of tobacco use. Prohibiting only cigarette smoking may unintentionally lead to increased use of smokeless tobacco products.”

According to the truth campaign website: Tracking Progress































On the website under the “Frequently Asked Questions,” Truth cites a University of Michigan study for the statistics listed above:

“The University of Michigan interviews about 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders every year to understand their behaviors, attitudes and values. Why about 50,000? Because this sample size actually reflects the population of 8th, 10th and 12th graders in the U.S. It’s one of the largest samples and longest-running annual survey of its kind. So, basically, it’s had time to become one of the most respected national data sources on issues surrounding the health, drug use and alcohol use and tobacco use of 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Because it’s so well-respected in the public health community, we decided to use Monitoring the Future’s data. According to their research, 8 percent of teens currently smoke. For more info, check out”

Contact Christina Godfrey at [email protected].