We are writing to you today in regards to the university-wide tobacco ban potentially being implemented at Kent State University. Many other universities in Ohio have already executed tobacco bans in accordance to the resolution passed by the Ohio Board of Regents; however, Kent State should not do the same. While we do understand the general reasoning in adopting such a policy, we believe that it would cause more campus upset than good. It would hinder public safety and infringe on people’s personal liberties and property rights.
Practically, the policy itself presents a wide array of local issues. Since the ban applies to campus property, the most obvious consequence would be that students would take the most convenient route to find an area where it would be legal to smoke. This route would likely be State Route 59, which already supports high amounts of traffic. The rise of activity on the crosswalk will increase the risk of injury for drivers and students. The policy will also hurt the local businesses along State Route 59, which smokers may flock to and loiter outside of in order to smoke. Students will also be forced to leave campus during the odd hours of the night to smoke, which exposes them to the dangers of criminal activity during these times.
Another issue that arises with the implementation of the ban is the violation of public property ethics in relation to the general populace. The taxpayers and students of the university, who also study and live within university boundaries, should maintain the right to participate in activities that are legal, not to mention that the university depends on the tax revenue and tuition of such people to maintain its services. To deny them this right would violate the very principle behind how public territory operates and would certainly not be well-received by the community.
Kent State thus far has demonstrated tremendous tolerance for the minority groups on campus, but attacking smokers, a different sort of minority group, would be a step in the wrong direction. The freedoms of students should be taken seriously. Students at Kent State are comprised mostly of adults, and they should be free to make choices and deal with the consequences that accompany them, without unnecessary university interference. Though smoking is an undesirable activity, to nullify the liberty to do so on public ground would be an infringement on students’ rights. What right does Kent State have that it can strip students of their freedom?
Another potential issue that will occur with the tobacco ban is that it applies to all university property, which covers a large amount of land. This will make the ban difficult to implement, and will require the university to spend more money and resources in order to enforce it.
Lastly, it is important to note that there already exist very reasonable regulations for smoking on campus. Many of the complaints refer to tobacco consumption near buildings and doorways, in which other residents are forced to smell the smoke against their consent. Presently, there are rules that require smokers to stand twenty feet away from any building that are, in many cases, not being enforced. One example of the current policy enforcement succeeding is in front of the Business Administration Building, where students would regularly smoke in defiance of the rule, causing the non-smoking students to avoid that doorway and make complaints to the staff. When a new, more visible sign was posted in accordance with the occasional warning, the problem was resolved and secondhand smoke became much less of an issue. Active enforcement of the existing policies would likely render the campus-wide tobacco ban unnecessary.
It is important that this issue is given careful consideration. Though the smoking ban may be fueled by good intentions, we believe that the tobacco ban would do more harm than good. The university should not infringe upon the personal choices of students in such a manner, and if any action must be taken, it should be to reinforce the rules already put into place. We hope that you take everything included in this letter to heart.
Katrina Darst, junior French literature, culture and translation major, Kent Student Liberty Alliance president
Brendan Bennett, sophomore entrepreneurship major, Kent Student Liberty Alliance vice president