Smoking areas grow smaller

Jackie Valley

When senior biology major Adam Custer needs to smoke a cigarette, he usually finds a spot in the shade outside.

Custer is not alone. According to the 2004 Portage County Adult Tobacco Survey, 23.3 percent of adults living in Portage County smoke cigarettes.

Under Kent State’s policy, all smokers are required to smoke outside. The only exception to that rule is in the Student Center, where smokers are permitted to smoke either in a designated third-floor lounge or the bar section of the Rathskeller, said Jon Harper, assistant director of the Student Center.

“The reason people are allowed to smoke in those two areas is because those two rooms are vented directly to the roof,” Harper said.

Kent State’s solution to smoking offers a compromise.

“I think the smoking policy at Kent is fair. You have to respect the nonsmokers as well,” said freshman justice studies major Maddie Richards.

Kent State’s smoke-free policy also extends to the residence halls.

“There is no smoking in the residence halls,” said Michael Varrati, a desk receptionist at residence services. “There are certain zoned areas for smoking outside, usually by a main door, away from where most people live.”

Driven outside, students often gather in groups to smoke and socialize.

“Outside of Tri Towers is the place to smoke,” said Tia Geiser, a freshman nursing major living in Koonce Hall. “Everyone meets people there too. It’s really weird.”

Even so, freshman exploratory major Jenni Williams said she thinks “we should be able to smoke in one indoor place in each building in the winter.”

Soon the entire city of Kent could face a smoking policy similar to Kent State’s.

“We are working with City Council to hopefully pass a smoking ban in the city of Kent,” said Aaron Bohannon, coordinator for the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition.

The coalition hopes the smoking ban will be put on the agenda for a vote at the next City Council meeting, Bohannon said.

The proposed city ordinance would forbid smoking in any public building, such as restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, banks and grocery stores, Bohannon said.

So far, the community reaction has been positive, Bohannon said, although the bar owners in Kent are uncertain about how much of an impact a smoking ban would have on their businesses, many of which are smoker destinations.

One restaurant in Kent, Riverside Wine & Imports, already is a smoke-free establishment.

“It was a personal decision,” owner Robert Morson said. “I am an avid nonsmoker. There was no way I was going to open a wine bar with smoke.”

While Morson estimates that 85 percent of his customers are nonsmokers, he said he has not noticed a negative impact on his business.

“People seem to gravitate to a place that is smoke free,” Morson said.

Freshman zoology major Chloe Zarbakhsh said she would support the adoption of a smoke-free policy in Kent.

“I think that people who smoke should have the right to smoke outside, but I think in restaurants it is not fair to the other people,” Zarbakhsh said.

Contact news correspondent Jackie Valley at [email protected].