Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio
Smoking is already prohibited indoors at Ohio’s universities and colleges, but at their meeting next week, the Board of Regents will propose a resolution to extend that ban to all campus grounds, indoors and out.
Some 258 colleges and universities nationwide already have similar bans in place, and a couple of Ohio universities beat the Board of Regents to the punch and already banned smoking campus wide.
As for the rest, the Board can’t exactly force them to get on board with this plan.
Herdia Hodges lights up a cigarette and takes a long, slow puff. Lighting up on campus may not be something she’ll be allowed to do – if the Board of Regents has its way.
Hodges has been a smoker for 41 years. When she started working at the University of Toledo in 1987, she used to smoke at her desk.
“I just could light up whenever I wanted to, I didn’t have to take a break, just sit there, work and smoke my cigarettes,” says Hodges. “But now I have to walk all the way out and all the way back in.”
That’s because the university banned smoking outdoors on campus last August.
That is to say, Toledo banned smoking for the most part. When this issue was first raised a few years ago, smokers pushed back. The result was a compromise: the main campus would be smoke free, except for a handful of designated smoking areas, fondly referred to by students and faculty as “butt huts.”
The butt huts look like bus stops. They have clear, glass walls and white roofs. Ashtrays and a couple of stray cigarette butts adorn the inside, while flowers try to hide it from the outside.
Assistant professor of health education, Tavis Glassman, led the initiative to ban smoking on campus. He says he was glad when the university adopted its no-smoking policy, but he’s not done with his anti-tobacco crusade just yet.
For one thing, he says banning smoking is not enough.
“Hookahs, snuff, dip there’s all sorts of products out now, not just cigarettes,” Glassman says. “If you’re working for a policy make it tobacco free, not just cigarette free.”
Glassman also would like to see the butt huts go. He says, “if people want to use tobacco products they can go off campus and choose to use them if you’re so inclined. We’re not saying you can’t use them, we’re just saying you can’t use them here.”
That’s exactly what Miami University did back in 2008. The entire campus is smoke free. No butt huts.
Claire Wagner is the University’s communications director. She says students caught smoking on campus more than once can be directed to the ethics board, and supervisors can be informed if their employees are caught puffing away.
But it’s still mostly an honor system.
Wagner says, “enforcement is our challenge. Surely there is very little smoking on campus, but it still does happen.”
Enforcement all around is a tricky thing, concedes Jim Tuschman who chairs the Ohio Board of Regents. He says even the Board doesn’t have the authority to require boards of universities to adopt no-smoking policies campus wide. Instead, he says, “We are seeking to encourage those boards to take up and consider this initiative.”
But Tuschman says he’s optimistic schools will adopt this plan on their own accord.
“We may be pleasantly surprised here,” he says. “I have a lot of confidence in the young folks in the country and in this state. They’re smart and they’re intelligent and for the most part they may say you know what, it’s the right thing to do and if we choose to smoke at home so be it. Maybe we can cut it out and be better off for it.”
Tuschman hopes banning smoking will also cut down on health care costs.
Miami University has not been able to show any savings on that front yet, but national data suggest that every smoking employee costs his or her company an extra $2,000 in health care expenses.
Back at the University of Toledo, most students are happy about the school’s no-smoking-for-the-most-part policy.
“it’s a great initiative because a lot of students who aren’t smokers don’t like walking behind people who are smoking,” says graduate student Joe James. “So it’s a good way where they can still smoke but they don’t bother others.”
Sven Oval, an incoming freshman agrees.
“As long as it’s not in your face, as long as you don’t have to be around it and they can do their thing and you can do your thing, all’s happy, that’s cool enough.”
Oval says Toledo’s anti-smoking policy was one of the reasons he chose the university.
Not a make or break thing, but maybe a tiebreaker.
No smoking signs adorn all the doors on campus at the University of Toledo.