No ifs, ands or butts

Shelley Blundell

Stark thinks smoking stinks

Signs surround outdoor patios on the Kent State Stark campus telling smokers not to smoke near buildings.

Credit: Jason Hall

The air at Kent State Stark campus is a little less smoky this semester, and the campus community likes it that way.

Everyone except the smokers, that is.

The new smoking regulations, adopted at the beginning of the Fall 2005 semester, attempted to make the Stark campus mostly non-smoking. And for the most part, the regulations are working quite well.

“We’re trying to accommodate the whole campus community,” said Cynthia Williams, public relations coordinator for Stark. “We’re showing the campus cares about making the environment … comfortable for non-smokers while still allowing smokers to have an area.”

The regulations were put in place because of an initiative that began in 2004. Jim Jadallah, academic programming director at Stark, was part of a committee at the Kent campus that looked at smoking and its effects. As he learned more about smoking, Jadallah became concerned about his home campus community – Stark.

And so the discussions began.

The initiative was first introduced by David Baker, former interim dean of the Stark campus, and meetings were held among administrators and staff to discuss how to make the campus a more comfortable place for both smokers and non-smokers alike.

“We started off by putting out a survey to find out what students, faculty and staff at Stark wanted,” Jadallah said. “The survey looked at habits and behaviors surrounding smoking and we got a lot of participation from the campus and some interesting data.”

Interesting indeed. Out of the 366 respondents to the campus-wide survey, taken in October 2004, 46 percent of the current smokers expressed a readiness to quit smoking in the near future. Also, 99 percent of the respondents agreed second-hand smoke is dangerous to others, and 77 percent of all respondents, both smokers and non-smokers, said they would rather date someone who didn’t smoke.

The results were interesting because it showed there was a need to do something about smoking on campus, Jadallah said.

“It all came about because people entering the front entrances of buildings on campus said they were walking through a cloud of smoke,” Jadallah said. “We had constant complaints about it.”

To further solidify a plan of action, Jadallah used Kent State’s VISTA system to create a cyber-vote among the Stark campus community, asking questions that would decide the fate of smoking on campus.

“The majority of the respondents, around 66 percent, were in favor of either elimination or relocation (of smoking on campus),” Jadallah said.

Jadallah acknowledged that smokers might feel discriminated against when the new policies went into effect, so he and other administrators helped by handing out candy and pamphlets on smoking awareness during the first few weeks of the semester as well as directing smokers to the new areas to ease the transition.

While Jadallah feels the program is going well, there are many smokers on the Stark campus who are not happy about the newly designated smoking areas.

“It’s going to suck in the wintertime,” said Melissa Michalek, freshman business management major. “I don’t see how people can complain – it’s outside!”

Michalek liked the idea of possibly having a smoker’s lounge, but not all smokers do.

“Smoking lounges are the worst,” said Brian Sereychas, junior political science major. “The smoke is all congested and it’s just trashy. Why can’t we just smoke anywhere outside? It’s not like we were blowing it in people’s faces as they walked out.”

But to the non-smokers at Stark, that was exactly how it felt.

“I hated weaving my way through smokers,” said Tina Pyle, freshman justice studies major. “They all huddled around an ashtray or a doorway and then they’d throw their cigarette butts out anywhere – it was disgusting.”

Jadallah feels the program can only succeed if the entire community participates to keep smoking in designated areas only.

“With implementation and guidelines, we’ve had very few problems with smokers and non-smokers,” Jadallah said. “We’re trying to change a culture, and it’s difficult to do that in a short period of time, but we’re trying to create a healthier environment for all of us to co-exist in.”

The non-smokers of the Stark campus have reacted very positively to the change, and feel a lot more comfortable in their new, relatively smoke-free environment.

“I think now that they’re targeting the act of smoking, and not the smokers, it’s made for a better commute for non-smokers to get from one building to the other,” junior history major Matt Timms said.

Timms’ friend, junior finance major Nick Stano, agreed.

“I feel comfortable every time I walk to Main Hall and I don’t have to breathe smoke,” Stano said. “It makes the surroundings more clean and natural when you walk around campus.”

Instead of discriminating against smokers, Jadallah hoped the program would better the whole campus community.

“We’re trying to instill a (healthy work) philosophy in the ‘future workers’ that go here,” Jadallah said. “But we’re trying to do it in such a way that smokers don’t feel discriminated against. At the same time, if they want to quit, we’re more than willing to help them.”

Smoking in the workforce has become a hot issue of late. Jadallah found studies that looked at smoking in the workforce. According to the Centers for Disease Control, businesses lose $3,400 a year per smoking employee – $760 in lost productivity and $1,623 in medical expenses.

The Tobacco Public Policy Center at Capitol University Law School reported smokers average 6.16 missed days of work a year from smoking-related illnesses.

Anyone who is thinking of quitting can call the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at (800) 934-4840. According to the Quit Line’s statistics, smokers who complete the Quit Line program are five times more successful than those who quit cold turkey.

Contact features reporter Shelley Blundell at [email protected].