Our View: Smoking ban might be commendable, but is it practical?

DKS Editors

Following a recent report by the Kent State Tobacco Free Campus Advisory Committee, Lester Lefton’s cabinet is considering a campus-wide ban on smoking and tobacco products. The report outlines a three-step process to gradually wean the Kent campus community from tobacco products, with the ultimate goal of making Kent State a tobacco-free campus by 2016. The cabinet will either approve or reject the ban as early as December.

While we are all for students and faculty quitting smoking for their own health and well-being, we don’t feel it is up to the university to make anyone quit. We’re all adults here, and those who smoke are aware of the risks. Completely banning tobacco use from a public institution (even though the university has the right), comes across as a bit counterproductive.

First, consider the limitations on smoking in effect now. Currently, smoking is prohibited by Ohio law in all university buildings and vehicles, at outdoor campus events, in exterior structures, and within 20 feet of any building or ventilation unit. But how well is that enforced? When was the last time you saw someone measuring a smoker’s distance from the nearest open window? There’s no practical way to enforce the laws we have now, so will banning tobacco completely make a difference?

Second, under this proposed ban, how is the “campus” defined? Isn’t the Esplanade expansion part of campus? How far would one have to go to escape the non-smoking area? Would people be banned from smoking around the new Hotel and Conference Center? In that case, the new ban would trap Kent residents and visitors not directly connected to the university — and how would tobacco use be monitored in that case? What smoking police will be put in charge of who lights up?

We’re not saying we’re against the advisory committee’s intentions. We applaud its efforts to keep students and faculty healthy. We commend the group for working out such a detailed plan on how to reach the goal of a smoke-free Kent State in three years, which includes counseling and assistance for tobacco-users who wish to quit. These are all positive steps to better lives and better lungs, but it all comes down to whether universities are responsible for or capable of making personal health decisions for their community members.

In this case, we don’t think so.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.