Campaign aims for smoke-free indoors

Andrew Hampp

As a registered nurse, Ward 2 Councilwoman Carrie Gavriloff has seen firsthand the negative health effects of secondhand smoke.

Every year 3,000 non-smokers die from lung cancer, she said at a press conference held Friday by the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition in the Schwebel Garden Room.

More people die from smoking than alcohol, Gavriloff said, and secondhand smoke can also lead to an increase in asthma in young children.

Gavriloff was one of 10 speakers who cited statistics like these to announce the coalition’s campaign attempting to ban smoking indoors at all businesses in the city of Kent and buildings at the university.

“We are prepared as organizers to take the lead for a smoke-free Kent State University,” said Lauren Kessel, president of health-based fraternity Eta Sigma Gamma. “It is important to maintain that seven out of 10 Kent students would prefer a smoke-free atmosphere.”

Presently, only two locations on campus allow smoking indoors – the Rathskeller and the staff break room on the third floor of the Student Center. If approved, the smoke-free legislation would forbid smoking in these locations and could implement a policy that would prohibit smoking within a certain radius of all buildings, said Heather Hopkins, freshman exploratory major and grassroots coordinator for the Kent State Clean Indoor Air Campaign.

Also on hand to speak at the conference was Kent State Tobacco Task Force coordinator Laura Buckeye, who said the task force has been cleaning up cigarette butts outside of campus buildings for the last year and a half as part of its adopt-a-building program. Health-based fraternity Eta Sigma Gamma has participated in the project, cleaning buildings such as Bowman Hall and Rockwell Hall.

Assistant health professor Amy Thompson has worked closely with a group of her graduate students in the College of Education, Health and Human Services in conducting research for the coalition’s campaign.

Tina Hoffman, graduate student and Burlington resident, worked on coordinating Friday’s press conference and plans to further involve herself with the campaign.

“Even though I don’t live in Kent, I’ll make sure to get to all the Kent businesses,” she said. “In the future, I think this would have a huge impact. There’s a big community on campus that would set the precedent for other college campuses.”

Thompson said in her closing remarks at the press conference that as a health educator she was very concerned about the negative impact tobacco imposes on Kent’s community.

“Eighty-two percent of all adult Americans think smokers should not smoke among non-smokers,” she said. “I hope other members of the community also embrace these effects and unite to make Kent State a public health priority.”

Contact public affairs reporter Andrew Hampp at [email protected].