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Published: Wednesday, 3/12/2014

UT panel weighs smoking ban plan


The University of Toledo Board of Trustees may vote next month on a proposed smoking ban on UT’s main campus.

A board committee heard testimony Tuesday for and against a ban. The full board is expected to discuss the matter at its April 14 meeting, and could vote then.

“This is something that is very important to the board, but before we make a decision on this we want to hear from the various constituencies,” committee Chairman Susan Farrell Palmer said. A smoking ban “is not a forgone conclusion,” she said.

The committee allowed three proponents and opponents each to speak, with a student, faculty, and staff representative selected for each side. No staff members, however, volunteered to speak against the ban.

Michael Peachock, a student government member who wrote the smoking ban proposal, said 60 percent of some 5,000 students who responded to an October survey supported it. Student and faculty groups have pushed for a ban, despite the proposal’s narrow defeat by the student government.

“It’s very clear that the student body wants this,” he said.

But not every student agrees. Matt Purdue said he thought the current policy, which restricts, but does not ban, smoking on campus, is poorly enforced, and a full ban would be harder to implement.

The university implemented a policy in 2011 that limited smoking and tobacco use to designated areas and in personal vehicles. UT’s Health Science Campus, the former Medical College of Ohio, went smoke-free in 2008.

Both sides cited concerns about the designated areas, called “smoking huts,” that look like bus-stop shelters.

Marcus Dawson, UT’s associate director for residential life, said the huts have a reputation as a place to smoke substances other than tobacco. They also become congregation points where gatherings have led to unruly behavior, including an incident in which someone brandished a firearm.

“They are bringing a lot of unwanted, unnecessary activities on campus,” Mr. Dawson said.

But a smoking ban could also pose a safety risk for students, UT professor Mark Templin said. Students might cross busy streets to find places to smoke, or walk late at night into neighborhoods less secure than campus.

Tavis Glassman, a UT professor of health education, cited health concerns of secondhand smoke, and said reducing smoking’s helps smokers quit. Further restrictions on smoking may, in many ways, be inevitable, he said.

“If we don’t pass this, we’ll be talking about this in another two years,” he said.

The Ohio Board of Regents passed a resolution in 2012 urging public colleges and universities to ban all tobacco from campuses.

Bowling Green State University on Jan. 1 implemented a new policy similar to UT’s current policy.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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