Board of Regents urges universities to ban tobacco

Marc Kovac

Columbus, Ohio — Student and faculty smokers, take note.

The Ohio Board of Regents finalized a resolution last Monday urging the state’s colleges and universities to adopt tobacco-free policies on their campuses, which could mean no smoking, chewing or otherwise consuming related products in dormitories, outdoor spaces or any other areas.

The resolution, OK’d on a unanimous vote, is symbolic rather than policy-setting. The regents have no authority to implement such plans — college and university boards of trustees have to develop and finalize their own tobacco- or smoke-free policies.

But Regents Chairman James Tuschman said he hopes the resolution will mark the start of discussions and debates.

“What we’re trying to do is modify behavior,” Tuschman said.

“This is the way we think is the way to do that. Will we succeed in every respect? I don’t know. It’s going to be very interesting… how these campuses debate and consider this. They’re going to get input from their students, their faculty.”

“There’s going to be very serious discussion about this. Our job here is to raise the issues, is to bring forward what we think is a leadership position.”

Smoking already is banned in many university campus buildings, thanks to the constitutional amendment OK’d by voters several years ago that prohibited smoking in public places.

But Smoke Free Ohio law does not cover dorm rooms or open spaces on campuses. More than half a dozen colleges and universities in the state, including Malone College and Miami University, have implemented extended smoking or tobacco prohibitions to cover such areas.

According to statistics released by the regents board Monday, close to 800 campuses nationwide have instituted smoke-free policies.

Backers say the bans are needed to make campuses healthier, thus cutting down on future medical costs, and to reduce the number of young people who become regular smokers during their early years in college. They also would like campuses to provide cessation counseling at no cost to employees.

“… Ohio would be far better off if our public universities and community colleges were smoke-free locations,” said Chancellor Jim Petro, himself a smoker for 40 years who attributes the habit to the laryngeal cancer that has left him with a raspy voice.

A representative of Cleveland Clinic, which supports tobacco-free policies, urged the regents to consider supporting stricter policies against tobacco use, including blocking the hiring of smokers or firing employees who refuse to quit.

And Regent Patricia Ackerman, who stopped smoking after 36 years, questioned whether Ohio colleges and universities should be prompted to pursue a common date on which they would all implement tobacco bans.

“I would hate for us to make a recommendation and leave it to chance on the implementation side,” she said.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at

[email protected].