Smoking trends on campus change throughout the years

Caleb Jenkins

As complaints go up, some campuses have gone smoke-free

Claire Ropp, speech development teacher for Wilmington City Schools, said her mother told her tales of how neighbors in her residence hall would smoke casually while talking in the hallway. Both her mother and grandmother attended Kent State and experienced the on-campus life.

“She (Ropp’s mother) said there would always be people walking in to the dorm or out of the dorm smoking a cigarette,” Ropp said. “Some people would smoke like chimneys in their room even.”

But as the years went on, Kent State’s smoking policy changed to agree with state codes, downsizing the areas for student smoking. Most recently passed and recognized is the Chapter 3794 smoking ban, the state-wide that went into effect December 2006. The ban eliminated smoking inside public buildings and directly outside places of entrance. Even designated, ventilated smoking areas in places of residence or business breakrooms became unusable via the ban.

Max Chiantis, sophomore architecture major, said he used to enjoy smoking and watching sporting events near the Pete’s Arena bar in the Rathskeller as a freshman.

“There is nothing sweeter than smoking a cigarette inside watching hockey or football,” Chiantis said, “and the bar there made smoking seem so fitting.”

After Chapter 3794 went into effect, smoking was no longer permitted in the Rathskeller, putting a frown on the faces of smokers across campus, Chiantis said.

“The smoking ban is repressing my freedom to smoke cigarettes freely,” Chiantis said. “And when it gets cold, it’s a real displeasure to smoke outside.”

Alex Plas, sophomore nursing major, said he approves of the smoking ban and its effects on Kent State smoking policy.

“There’s nothing worse than waking up at 8 in the morning, late for class, and getting hit in the face with cigarette smoke,” Plas said, referring to smokers standing directly outside building and residence hall entrances. “The only problem is cigarette butt receptacles were taken away, so they would just collect outside building entrances.”

Colleges and universities with smoke-free policies (Entire campus, both indoors and outdoors in and near Ohio).

&bull Ohio: Circleville Bible College, Hocking College, Miami University, Malone College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Notre Dame College of Ohio, University of Toledo Health Science Campus

&bull Pennsylvania: Montgomery County Community College, Pennsylvania State University Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (14 campuses)

&bull Michigan: Delta College, Grand Rapids Community College, Great Lakes Christian College, Hope College, Lansing Community College, Saginaw Valley State University

&bull Tennessee: Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University

Source: American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation

There were several instances of student complaints regarding smoking that started tallying up before the smoking ban came about, said Betsy Joseph, director of Residence Services.

“Parents and students were concerned about smokers standing at doors to the entrance of buildings,” Joseph said, “Smoke would get inside the building and into the students’ rooms.

“Problems arose at several dorms with students smoking at exits, which affected the people walking through trying to get inside.”

These complaints started showing up approximately two years prior to the smoking ban’s debut. But as per university policy, the success of creating and maintaining a smoke-free environment depends on the “thoughtfulness, consideration and cooperation of smokers and nonsmokers.” The public is responsible for enforcing the policy.

Violators of the smoking ban can be fined between $100 and $2,500, depending on the number of previous violations within the previous two years. Fines can even be doubled if the violation is considered intentional.

Smoke-free campuses

Some colleges have taken the next step since the indoor smoking ban was enacted; they’ve become smoke-free campuses.

Joseph said she hasn’t heard talk of Kent State becoming a smoke-free campus, but it stands to be a possibility if enough student interest is expressed.

More than 160 colleges nationwide have completely eliminated smoking on campus grounds, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, more than tripling the number of smoke-free campuses since March 2007.

The Chapter 3794 state-wide indoor smoking ban seems to have been a springboard for colleges to become completely smoke-free, said Sam Brewer, junior biochemistry major at the smoke-free Miami University of Ohio.

“Personally, I think a smoke-free campus is boring and inconvenient,” Brewer said. “I met so many people my freshman year by saying ‘hello’ to smokers standing outside the dorm.”

Brewer added that less people seem to be outside on a daily basis, specifically as the weather turns progressively colder. Miami University’s smoke-free policy went into effect August 2008.

“I still see cigarette butts on the ground occasionally,” Brewer said, “But it’s rare to see someone actually smoking on campus unless they’re in their car or something.”

While Brewer, a non-smoker, is against his university’s policy, other students support it.

Elizabeth Wilson, Miami University junior botany major, enjoys her campus being smoke-free.

“The ground isn’t littered with cigarette butts or empty packs,” Wilson said. “The air seems cleaner without seeing people smoking cigarettes everywhere you go outside.”

Sophomore advertising major Mark Thornburg said he thinks students should be allowed to smoke when and where they please at Kent State.

“It’s preposterous that universities are not allowing students to smoke cigarettes on campus grounds,” Thornburg said, “With as much money as we pay, especially to live on campus, it would be absurd if Kent State banned smoking anywhere on campus.”

Thornburg added the inconvenience to smokers and deprivation to personal rights would outweigh any positive benefits that could come of an outdoor smoking ban.

Contact student health reporter Caleb Jenkins at [email protected].