KSU Tobacco Task Force has public forum

Erin Hopkins

Aaron Bohannon, coordinator for the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, wore a tie yesterday emblazoned with “no smoking” symbols.

His tie summarized the goal of the Kent State University Tobacco Task Force: make the university smoke-free.

The task force held a public forum yesterday in the Student Center. About 15 people attended.

Lauren Kessel, senior community health education major, opened the forum by citing statistics about smoking. According to university statistics, 70 percent of Kent State students don’t smoke. Seven in 10 students prefer to socialize in a smoke-free atmosphere.

The task force hopes that with the city of Kent’s initiative to become smoke free, more support will be given to the university smoke-free initiative. It is working on two proposals to present to the university Board of Trustees, said Alexis Blavos, graduate student in community health education and promotion and member of the task force.

The first proposal is for a completely smoke-free university, including all indoor and outdoor areas. Currently, the Student Center is the only building on campus that allows smoking — in a third-floor break room and the Rathskeller.

The second proposal is to only allow smoking outdoors, but no closer than 20 feet from the entrances to all buildings.

Blavos said the task force has completed focus groups and public forums. She is working to get the support of many different campus groups, such as the Greek community and Undergraduate Student Senate, before she presents the options to the trustees.

“I want (the proposals) to be representative of the groups on campus,” she said.

Amy Thompson, assistant professor of health education, said tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death and that smoke-free laws often encourage people to quit smoking.

She added that only 18 percent of Kent State students are daily smokers, according to the Office of Health Promotion.

“That’s the minority,” Thompson said. “We need to look at policies that will benefit the majority of students.”

She said she was worried about the health implications of secondhand smoke coming into a building where nonsmokers are sitting in class.

“As a university, that’s a liability,” she said. “There is nothing in writing that limits smoking perimeters around buildings.”

Jeffrey Fuller, graduate student in history and Graduate Student Senate advocacy chair, asked how the smoke-free policies would be enforced on campus.

“That’s tough,” Blavos said. “But it needs to be about common courtesy. We want everyone to have healthy learning areas.”

Although Blavos hopes to take the proposals to the trustees within the next month, the task force knows a smoke-free university may be a long time coming.

“This process will take time,” said Melissa Satyshur, senior community health major. “We know this won’t happen overnight.”

Contact public affairs reporter Erin Hopkins at [email protected].