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A student group that says a proposed campuswide smoking ban at the University of Toledo would deny “people their civil rights” handed out fake cigarettes and asked students to sign petitions in the Student Union on Monday to protest the ban.
“It’s not really about smoking outside,” said Ron Johns, a member of Young Americans for Liberty. “It’s about individual liberties. The government shouldn’t regulate it.”
But critics say Young Americans for Liberty, the student group protesting the smoking ban, are blowing smoke about a nonissue.
The group plans to turn over the collected signatures to the university’s Student Government on Thursday, Mr. Johns said. The goal is to make sure that students’ voices are being heard, he said.
University trustees are expected to discuss the smoking ban during their March 11 committee meeting, said Meghan Cunningham, UT spokesman. They will not make a final decision at that meeting.
The controversy was ignited in 2012 when the Ohio Board of Regents decided all tobacco should be prohibited on public two- and four-year campuses. The state board unanimously approved a resolution asking each college’s board of trustees to impose such a ban, but did not make it a requirement such as other states already have, including Michigan. The Regents also discussed allowing colleges to refuse hiring smokers, but did not include it in their resolution.
Representatives from the University of Toledo’s student government decided to survey 5,000 students in October, 2013, and 60 percent said they supported the ban, according to Michael Peachock, 19, a member of student government who wrote the proposal to ban all smoking on campus.
During a very heated student government meeting last fall, the proposal was defeated by one vote. But President Emily Kramp and Vice President Lauren Jencen, who support the ban, pushed the issue forward despite the outcome of the group’s vote, Mr. Peachock said.
Miss Kramp, who is attending a conference, and Miss Jencen, could not be reached for comment.
Student Richard Haseltine, a member of Young Americans for Liberty, said the group had collected about 60 signatures Monday morning.
“A lot of nonsmokers signed it because they were opposed to how it was handled by student government,” Mr. Haseltine, 19, said. “I think if someone is doing something and it’s not hurting anyone else, they shouldn’t be told what they can’t do.”
Those who support the smoking ban point out that secondhand smoke does hurt other people, and does have an adverse affect on nonsmokers.
“We don’t want to start banning everything,” Mr. Peachock said. “Soda isn’t good for you; but when you drink it, it doesn’t harm others.”
The demand for a smoke-free campus has gained steam in recent months. The university’s Faculty Senate also passed a resolution that the Main Campus should be tobacco free, and the University Council voted in support of a campus-wide ban on all tobacco products except for electronic cigarettes.
The University of Toledo’s Health Science Campus, the former Medical College of Ohio campus, went smoke-free and tobacco-free Jan. 1, 2008.
The main campus implemented a tobacco use policy Aug. 1, 2011, that permitted use in designated areas which are referred to as “smoking huts” and are located throughout campus. They resemble bus stop shelters. Previous policy prohibited smoking within 30 feet of doors and windows of campus buildings.
Mr. Peachock, who works as a resident adviser, says the smoking shelters are not safe. Since the 2013-14 school year began, he said at least three incidents have occurred at these facilities, including one stabbing, one armed robbery, and one fight in which a gun was drawn.
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