Maumee lawyer James Tuschman thinks smoking should not be allowed on college campuses. Because he's also chairman of the Ohio Board of Regents, he has more power than most other people to turn his belief into reality.
Last month, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, chief executive of the Cleveland Clinic, told the regents that colleges should educate bodies as well as minds. Among college students who smoke, he said, more than a third picked up the unhealthy habit after they enrolled. The primary reasons he cited are stress, alcohol use, peer pressure, and weight control.
Chancellor Jim Petro supports the ban. He started to smoke in college and was a "secret smoker" for 40 years before he quit four years ago. He was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 2009, was treated, and is now free of cancer.
Smoking already is banned in college buildings across Ohio. But Miami University is the only public university in the state with a campus-wide smoking ban.
Last year, the University of Toledo restricted the use of tobacco products to seven smoking shelters and inside private vehicles parked on campus. UT's Health Science Campus has been smoke- free since 2008.
According to California-based Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, about 700 colleges around the nation are smoke-free. Mr. Tuschman and others would like the rest of Ohio's 14 public universities and 23 community colleges to join the growing trend.
A number of private colleges in Ohio, including Malone College in Canton, have gone smokeless in recent years. Administrators who haven't taken the plunge worry that a ban will hurt enrollment. But Miami University, which has been smoke-free since 2008, claims the opposite experience. "People are happy not to have to walk through smoke," spokesman Claire Wagner told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
According to a study released last year by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, about 26 percent of Ohioans smoke. That's the highest rate for any state with a statewide ban on indoor smoking. Among all states, only Kentucky, at 29 percent, had a higher smoking rate.
The benefits of a ban to students and faculty -- smokers and non-smokers -- are obvious. It would protect nonsmokers from second-hand smoke and give smokers an incentive to quit. Schools would save on health-care costs.
Private businesses, the state, and everyone else who pays for health insurance would benefit as well. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that smoking costs Ohio more than $9 billion a year in medical costs, Medicaid expenses, and lost productivity.
In January, the CDC gave Ohio a failing grade for the money it spends -- or, more precisely, doesn't spend -- to prevent people from taking up smoking. The state received the same grade for inadequate support of smoking cessation programs.
Miami University and UT's Health Science Campus deserve top marks for their efforts to discourage this deadly, costly habit. Ohio's other public colleges and universities should do likewise.