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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2012

Regents urge public campuses in Ohio to prohibit all tobacco

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- The chairman of the Ohio Board of Regents said he's been surprised at the lack of negative reaction so far to his proposal that passed unanimously Monday urging public colleges and universities to ban all tobacco from their campuses.

"Will it be a walk in the park? It won't," said James Tuschman, a Toledo lawyer. "There's going to be some serious groups that will probably debate this, but I think in the long run most of our institutions will accept this policy."

The board, a coordinating agency for Ohio's 14 public universities and 23 community colleges, cannot unilaterally impose such a policy. The resolution leaves it to each school to decide whether to follow the recommendations.

A law adopted by voters in 2006 already makes it illegal to light up in any indoor workplace that invites the public inside, including college classrooms and administration buildings. But it does not include student dormitories or open outdoor space.

Nationally, 711 public and private colleges and universities have 100 percent smoke-free policies that provide for no designated smoking areas in dormitories or on campus grounds. In Ohio, that list includes just Miami University and the private Notre Dame College of Ohio.

Six more -- the public University of Toledo Health Science Campus -- formerly the Medical College of Ohio -- and private Hocking College, Malone College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Dwight Scar College of Nursing, and Ohio Christian University -- have policies that apply to all tobacco products.

"I regret the fact that when I went off to college, I started smoking, which obviously took its toll on me … " said a raspy-voiced Jim Petro, Ohio's chancellor of higher education who battled cancer of the larynx. "This is not something that breaks with any tradition," he said. "It doesn't necessarily try to redefine what might have been deemed to be student and employee rights of the past. It simply recognizes that overall the elimination of smoke in public places is proving to be, time and again, to a very great degree a great health move for all of our citizens."

In addition to its outright ban at its medical campus, UT restricts smoking to seven bus-stop-style smoking areas on its main campus. The policy does not address penalties.

"At this time, with the most recent action by the Ohio Board of Regents, the board will take a look at its tobacco policy," UT spokesman Meghan Cunningham said. "When it installed the current policy, there was a lot of input from faculty, students, and staff, and that policy has been in the works now for about a year."

Bowling Green State University bans smoking in all buildings, including dormitories, and requires those who smoke outside to stay 25 feet or more from building entrances. A student who violates the policy by smoking in a residence hall would be referred to the school's student disciplinary process. A first-time offender likely would be given a warning, lectured on fire safety, and offered smoking cessation help. A repeat offender could be kicked out of the dormitory, spokesman Dave Kielmeyer said.

"BGSU looks forward to reviewing the recommendations by the Ohio Board of Regents for consideration by the board of trustees," he said.

The resolution comes four years after Ohio dismantled its anti-smoking foundation.

"It was clear that in the face of overwhelming spending by tobacco companies and associated retailers that we were going to slide backward because their pressure, their ability to market, is so pervasive," said Dr. Robert Crane, of Columbus, a former foundation member. "We've seen that. Ohio is now third in the nation in smoking. The Gallup Poll of November of 2011 showed 26 percent smoking (among Ohioans), so it's bad. But this is a good first step."

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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