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September 19, 2023

University passes smoking ban

As students come back to campus, they may see information about a new policy posted on sidewalks, doors and banners across campus.

The Clean Air Policy will go into effect Jan. 1 and states that students, faculty, staff and University visitors can only smoke in designated areas in parking lots or in their car.

“It’s asking people to really respect the rights of others,” said University President Mary Ellen Mazey.

Campus discussion of the policy began in July 2012, when the Ohio Board of Regents, a coordinating body for Ohio higher education, suggested all Ohio university campuses go tobacco free.

This summer, the University Board of Trustees approved the Clean Air Policy, after about a year of gathering opinions from five different representative groups, said Jill Carr, dean of students and senior associate vice president of Student Affairs.

Undergraduate Student Government President Alex Solis thinks the policy is a compromise of sorts.

“Students come from all walks of life,” he said. “If they choose to smoke, that’s why there’s designated areas.”

This policy won’t come without it’s problems, he said.

“There’s going to be problems with this policy— bring it to someone’s attention,” Solis said. “What I don’t want people to think is this is the end all, be all policy. We want this to be realistic.”

A potential “tricky” part of the policy may be enforcement, Solis said.

There won’t be specific people to enforce the designated areas, instead, it will be a community effort, Carr said.

“The whole community has to embrace this, we’re not going to have smoking police walking around,” Carr said.

The idea is that students, faculty and staff will go up to others and ask people to stop smoking.

Solis doesn’t think students will “go out of their way and confront someone.

“That’s an intimidating conversation, that’s uncomfortable,” he said.

If students don’t listen to their peers, an incident report may be filed and the student will be charged with a violation of the student code of conduct, which may lead to a hearing, said Michael Ginsburg, associate dean of students. There is also a process for faculty and staff through human resources, he said.

“I think some students will adapt and go to the nearest area,” Solis said. “I think other students will be frustrated that there is this newness. This transition is going to be challenging.”

So far, the University has spent $9,000 on materials to help educate students about the policy during the fall semester.

The campus is marked with signs, door clings, stress balls, banners and fliers about the policy and the designated areas— which are cigarette receptacles in parking lots— have information about programs to help them stop smoking and about the policy.

“Culture shift takes time and you need to educate people,” Ginsburg said.

The policy will be reviewed on an annual basis and could change as early as next year, Ginsburg said.

He said the goal of the policy “is not to encourage people to stop smoking, but to present them with choices.”

But Mazey said it has to be both.

“I think we want to help people,” she said, “because I think that tobacco is a health issue, it’s a health issue for them, it’s a health issue for their colleagues. You really don’t want to be around cigarette smoke.”

Solis said it’s not his place to tell students what to do, instead, he wants them to take away that the policy’s purpose is to strive to make BGSU a healthy campus.

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