KSU not likely to ban smoking without student support

Carrie Blazina

Kent State says it is not likely to follow a recommendation from the state to ban smoking on campus.

The Ohio Board of Regents told Ohio’s 14 public universities this summer they should enforce a smoking ban, but Emily Vincent, director of university media relations, said Kent State remains committed to the health of the campus community but is not planning to follow the recommendation unless there is overwhelming student support to do so.

“Right now we’re gathering input from the campus community,” Vincent said. “There are already a lot of no smoking areas on campus. So I’d be curious to also hear the feedback of others of going completely smoke-free.”

Vincent said the university will be raising this issue with the campus community and the Board of Trustees and seeking their input.

“A committee is meeting about this topic this week,” Vincent later said in an email. “Once that committee has gathered feedback from students, faculty and staff about whether or not they want Kent State to be a tobacco-free campus, that information will be taken to the Board of Trustees.”

Kim Norris, the Regents’ deputy chancellor for communications, said the the board’s recommendation is a response to evidence that college students are getting more and more likely to smoke and be exposed to damaging second-hand smoke.

“On behalf of students and their health, [the board] thought it was important to advocate for this, and so they unanimously passed this resolution,” Norris said.

According to the university’s administrative policy on smoking, Kent State currently prohibits smoking in any university building, vehicle or residence hall. Outside, people must smoke 20 feet away from the entrance to any university building.

This is in accordance with a state law banning smoking inside any public building, Norris said.

According to a survey by the College of Public Health in Spring 2011, 25 percent of undergraduate students at Kent State smoke, which is 5 percent more than the national average of smokers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 46 million people, or 20.6 percent of the United States’ adult population, smoke cigarettes.

Other Ohio schools

Norris said seven Ohio universities and hundreds of campuses across the country already have gone smoke-free, independent of state laws, bans or recommendations.

“A number of universities have already adopted this, so we know it’s very much possible,” she said. “They’re already operating that way.”

Cleveland State’s Board of Trustees last week voted to recommend banning the use of all tobacco on its campus, following the Regents’ recommendation. Ohio University’s Board of Trustees agreed this month to put together a task force to review the implications of enforcing a ban.

Miami University has been smoke-free on campus in 2008. Claire Wagner, associate director of Miami University communications, said the policy came about because of health concerns.

“It was hard to argue — there’s no reason to encourage it, because it’s not good for anybody,” Wagner said. “So that weighed on the decision as well.”

Wagner said although it’s supported and followed by the majority of people on campus, the policy difficult to enforce.

“Fewer students and fewer employees are seen smoking on campus, but that doesn’t mean that we’re 100 percent successful,” she said. “I guess the question is, do we put resources into police or some other office to follow people and get their name and ask them to quit smoking? Well, up to now we’ve decided, no, that’s not what the intent is and that’s not a good use of resources.”

Wagner said Miami enforces the policy on an individual basis — for example, if someone sees a person on campus smoking, they get a warning the first time and a write-up the second time that could result in a fine.

Wagner said Miami has about 16,000 total students, compared to Kent State’s 22,000 undergraduates, so the increased size might mean the policy might be even harder to enforce at Kent State.

“I could only guess that you would have some people who are prone to follow rules so that you’d have a bit more success, but it would be hard, I think for full success,” she said.

The Miami Student, the campus newspaper, ran a story Tuesday saying many students on campus flout the ban. An editorial in the same day’s paper condemned people who smoke on campus in spite of the ban.

“Although students may make their own decisions regarding smoking, they should do so in ways that are respectful to others,” the editorial wrote. “When we first came to Miami, we all heard about Miami’s beautiful smoke-free campus. Let’s actually make it smoke-free.”

KSU student reactions

Frankie Varian, a Kent State freshman fashion design major who smokes, said he is “ecstatic” about Kent State not following the recommendation.

“I feel like the school has better things to spend their time and money on,” Varian said. “If they really want to cut down on smoking … they could have done some type of diversion program and implemented it into our DKS experience.”

Alisha Cope, a Kent State freshman biology/pre-med major, said there are some inconsiderate smokers on campus.

“When people are smoking and they blow it in my face, it’s annoying,” she said.

Cope said the current policy is “good, but a lot of people don’t follow it,” citing that people near buildings like the Music and Speech Center smoke within 20 feet of the entrance.

Varian agrees that smokers should be courteous to others and follow the existing policy, he said, which is strict enough.

“A big part of being a decent human being — and this goes for anyone — is just respecting other people,” he said. “So if you’re gonna smoke in an enclosed area and you know it’s gonna bother someone, you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].