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University pursues smoke-free campus

It may not be long until students are prohibited from smoking everywhere on campus, as the University is moving forward with the creation of a smoke-free or tobacco-free policy for campus.

Five University groups have submitted their support for creating the policy to University President Mary Ellen Mazey and the University has formed a committee to address the topic.

“We’re still pretty much in the gray area on everything, but we’re moving ahead,” said Jill Carr, dean of students and senior associate vice president of student affairs, who is heading the committee.

The idea of the University becoming tobacco free came about through an Ohio Board of Regents resolution passed July 23 encouraging colleges and universities to become tobacco free.

The committee is made up of about 10 to 12 members, consisting of the five groups: undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, administrative and classified staff.

Though all the groups were in support of a policy, there were conditions with some of the groups’ support, Carr said.

One of the Undergraduate Student Government’s conditions was that there be designated areas, or zones, on campus where people can smoke, said Alex Solis, USG president.

“We reached out to students … and no one really liked 100 percent smoke-free,” Solis said.

Solis said smoking zones will be the “best of both worlds.”

“Kind of like a hybrid model,” he said. “Two solutions to make the smokers and non-smokers happy.”

There needs to be a place on campus where people can smoke, Carr said.

If there isn’t a place where people can smoke, it becomes a community issue, with the possibility of people leaving cigarette butts across the street from campus, she said.

Another concern Solis and the USG had in relation to a possible policy is education for the campus and community.

Solis said it is important to give the community time to learn about the policy before it goes into effect.

Though nothing has been decided yet, the committee is “going in the direction of smoking zones,” he said.

David Sleasman, Graduate Student Senate president, said the group’s vote on whether the University should go forward with a policy was close.

There was a one vote difference, but the group voted to go forward with the decision, despite two main concerns, Sleasman said.

“There was confusion on the enforcement of the current policy; it was believed the current policy wasn’t being enforced,” Sleasman said. “People were hesitant to go smoke-free if we can’t really enforce the current policy.”

The policy Sleasman is referring to states that smoking is prohibited inside all University buildings and it is not permitted within 35 feet of any entrance, window or air-handling unit of a University residence.

Sleasman said he doesn’t think anybody in GSS disagrees with the idea that smoking is bad.

“There were just concerns of how the University is going to uphold the policy,” Sleasman said.

Solis said he posed the question of enforcement as well.

“The University police are not taking part in this; they don’t enforce this. It’s not a law,” Solis said.

The committee is still working out how the potential policy will work as far as discipline, he said.

“A lot of it’s going to be community based, which is going to be a struggle,” Solis said. “I think personally speaking, when this policy, this initiative comes through and we do become a smoke free campus with a number of zones … If I see someone smoking, I’m not going to report them, I’m going to remind them, ‘hey, we’re a smoke free campus, we have zones.’”

GSS was also concerned with making sure there would be smoking cessation programs if the campus becomes smoke free, Sleasman said.

The group stressed that they wanted there to be a supportive environment, he said.

The committee is still determining whether the campus will be smoke-free or tobacco-free, but the emphasis is being put on smoke-free, Solis said.

“Smokeless tobacco doesn’t affect anyone else,” Solis said. “[I’m] definitely seeing people focusing on the smoking aspect.”

The Board of Regents recommended that all campuses become tobacco free.

The committee meets every few weeks and is currently drafting a policy, Carr said.

“I think right now we’re making sure we’ve got a good clear definition as we look at tobacco, make sure it’s not just about smoke,” Carr said.

As the committee looks at other university’s policies, it found the policies usually start with a definition, Carr said.

The biggest next step is to draft a policy the whole group feels comfortable with, Carr said.

“It’s up to the committee to really start going through this policy and making sure it’s what we want because we don’t want to mess it up the first time,” Solis said.

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