Kent State still considering campus-wide smoking ban

Hannah Reed

While a Kent State committee is recommending a campus-wide tobacco ban, the use of electronic cigarettes on campus is on the rise, Kent State researcher Deric Kenne said.

However, the committee has not yet commented on how these electronic alternatives would be included in the ban.

Greg Jarvie, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, is the co-chair of the committee to ban regular cigarette smoking on campus.

“If we go smoke-free, we would phase it in over a period of time, probably a couple years,” he said. “There has not been a vote yet; it hasn’t been put in front of the Board of Trustees, and they are ultimately the ones that would say yay or nay.”

Jarvie said he is aware e-cigarettes have become more popular, but the committee has not yet addressed them. There is more focus on the challenge of enforcing a cigarette-smoking ban in a consistent and fair way.

According to Kent State’s website, the current policy indicates smoking can only be done in designated outdoor areas or at least 20 feet away from entrances or other openings to buildings or structures.

Sophomore political science major Miles Wilburn said he heard about the possible ban last year.

“I did hear about it but never heard how it has progressed,” he said. “I do smoke cigars occasionally, so I wouldn’t be thrilled about a ban.”

The Ohio Board of Regents told Ohio’s 14 public universities in summer 2012 that they should enforce smoking bans on their campuses. Kent State began looking into a ban in Fall 2012.

In September 2012, university officials said they were not likely to create the ban without student support. In November 2012, the university sent a survey to students, faculty and staff, asking their opinions on the possible ban.

That survey did not mention e-cigarettes.

Kenne, an assistant professor in the health policy and management department, is currently in the process of publishing results for a survey he conducted on e-cigarette use.

Kenne sent a survey to Kent State students at the beginning of February about e-cigarettes. More than 9,000 students participated in the survey, which found nearly 30 percent were currently using or had tried an e-cigarette.

“This is higher than a previously published study that found only 4.9 percent of college students had ever used an e-cigarette,” he said.

Of those nearly 30 percent, 33.5 percent used e-cigarettes to try to stop smoking normal tobacco cigarettes, and 27.8 percent used e-cigarettes because they could use them in places they could not smoke normal tobacco cigarettes.

Kenne said an e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that resembles a regular cigarette.

“It works by vaporizing a liquid that typically contains some concentration of nicotine,” he said. “Users of the e-cigarettes then inhale the vaporized liquid similarly to smoking a regular cigarette.”

Kenne said many e-cigarette users indicated they had used the electronic alternative in an attempt to stop smoking regular cigarettes.

Wilburn said he has noticed the increase in e-cigarette use.

“I see people smoke them in class; I see people smoke them in the Student Center,” he said. “I see them smoke them all over the place.”

Kenne said a potential public health concern is an increasing number of individuals that might be drawn to using e-cigarettes because they are perceived as safe and because they come in various flavors.

“[Users] will eventually become dependent on the nicotine contained in e-cigarettes,” he said. “That may lead individuals to eventually switch to using regular cigarettes, which we know contribute to numerous health issues.”

However, Kenne said e-cigarette use has the potential to be a positive thing as well.

“E-cigarettes may be an effective way for regular cigarette users to stop smoking,” he said. “If so, e-cigarettes could have a beneficial impact on public health in that regular cigarette smoking will decrease.”

Jarvie said even though the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the ban has not been discussed, the committee is still working to reach an effective decision on the ban of smoking on campus.

“I’ve been on campuses where, unfortunately, they say they are smoke-free, but there are people smoking everywhere,” he said. “If you are going to do it, you gotta stand for the right thing, and you gotta figure it out from there.”

Contact Hannah Reed at [email protected].