Tobacco-free town halls receive mixed reactions

Lyndsey Schley

The university held its last tobacco-free campus meeting on Thursday, March 14 at the Tuscarawas campus.

The meetings at every campus had a variety of turnouts and responses, wellness coordinator Rachael Decker said.

“Some of them had better turnouts than others but I think we got out of it what we wanted,” Decker said. “We heard a lot of feedback on suggestions, alternatives, tobacco policies and how to enforce the current policy. I feel like we gathered the information necessary. I think each [meeting] probably had somewhat equal representation for each preference.”

The Feb. 28 meetings at the Kent State Governance Chambers drew community members with a variety of opinions.

Senior auditor Calvin Carstensen read a portion of his letter to the editor, which ran in the Daily Kent Stater on Nov. 15, on the poor health and pollution caused by cigarette smoking and the poor enforcement of the current policy.

Senior integrated social studies major Marc Patchen expressed his concerns that this policy will hurt the community aspect of the campus.

“People are going to create spaces to smoke cigarettes and that’s a little bit detrimental to the way the student body interact with one another,” Patchen said. “I’ve been smoking since I was 14 and I think it’s a good that this nation in general moves away from cigarette smoking, but at the same time, I don’t think the right way to do it is to just pull the rug out from everybody’s feet.”

Sophomore public health major Da’Nae Redding suggested that, instead of eliminating smoking as a whole, the university creates smoking areas across campus. The current policy does not necessarily make it easy to avoid smoke, she said.

“I’ll be walking to class and the smokers are 20 feet away from the building, but as I’m walking to class, they’re walking in front of me,” Redding said. “I’m walking directly into smoke and that’s very irritating. There are a lot of smokers on campus and I could see that affecting a lot of students if we just totally wiped out smoking on campus as a whole. If we had an area outside each building or every half or quarter of a mile, I think that would be more effective than trying to totally eliminate smoking on campus.”

Freshman biology major Benjamin Watkins said a ban would be an infringement on civil liberties.

“While I understand smoking tobacco products is unhealthy for you, it is still each individual person’s right to put whatever they want into their bodies,” Watkins said. “I don’t even understand why you would get rid of all tobacco products, because if someone’s chewing, it’s not affecting anyone else.”

Sophomore entrepreneurship major Brendan Bennett said the ban could lead to traffic problems due to people crossing the streets to go off campus. He also said it could lead to a surge in crimes against smokers.

“A lot of kids like to have a cigarette before bed,” Bennett said. “That would mean now that these people would have to go off campus to do so. I wouldn’t say crime is high, but it’s still there. This is potentially exploiting the girls on campus who have to go off campus to smoke. [The ban would put] them in situations that are much more dangerous than just being on campus and having a cigarette.”

The tobacco-free campus committee will use this information to decide what tobacco policy to recommend to President Lester Lefton, Decker said.

“Now, we’re going to start getting into the true discussions on what our recommendation will be based on what the campus and what the community wanted,” Decker said. “It was important that we went out and we did each town hall meeting, especially at each regional campus.”

The committee’s goal is to have a recommendation to the president sometime in April, Decker said.

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].