Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Tuesday, 12 March 2013 08:43
Smoking has been banned for years in buildings at Bowling Green State University. Now the university is looking at banning smoking on its outdoor property as well.
|A smoker is seen carrying a cigarette while walking on the main campus of BGSU on Monday. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Last summer, the Ohio Board of Regents voted unanimously to recommend that every university in the state become tobacco-free. So a committee at BGSU is creating a ban to fit this campus.
There is no deadline for the policy to be created or implemented, according to Jill Carr, dean of student at BGSU.
"It's not a requirement. They are just recommending we become smoke-free," Carr said.
Some universities are debating whether to ban all tobacco products, or just smoking.
"We decided we're going to stick to the smoking," Carr said.
But beyond that, the issue can get a little complicated.
The committee coming up with a policy must decide whether all university property should be smoke-free, or if certain locations on campus should be designated as smoking areas. And if designated areas are established, where should those be located - and isn't that increasing health risks by asking smokers to congregate in one area.
"There are clearly two sides to this," Carr explained.
There are those BGSU students and employees who believe they have the right to smoke outside. And there are those who believe they have a right to not be exposed to second-hand smoke as they cross campus.
"They don't want to walk through a cloud of smoke to go to a building," she said.
State law requires that smokers stay 35 feet from building entrances, however, that rule is frequently violated especially in the winter, Carr said.
"As the weather gets colder, they get closer to the buildings."
However, if the university bans smoking on all its property, that may send smokers to the properties just beyond campus borders. "Are we being a good neighbor to the community" if smokers move to public sidewalks to light up, Carr said.
"You get into the battle of whose rights are more important," she said.
And since the university will probably have to allow people to smoke in their vehicles, the question then becomes - will people have to keep their windows up when smoking.
"This is a lot more complex than meets the eye," Carr said.
Another issue to be considered is enforcement of any outdoor smoking ban. While Ohio already has a statewide smoking ban for indoor public places or workplaces approved by voters in 2006, BGSU's policy would not be a law, Carr explained. Employees and students are required to follow university policies, and would be subject to disciplinary action. However, the likelihood of the university actually enforcing the ban in all areas, such as at football tailgate parties, is questionable, she added.
"It's just not going to happen," Carr said, stressing that the ban will rely on good marketing and voluntary support. "It would be very difficult to get the culture changed completely."
But the benefits will be worth the headaches, according to Faith Yingling, director of the BGSU Wellness Center.
"Absolutely, anytime we can improve people's health it's going to be a positive thing," she said.
Yingling said university faculty, staff and students have been surveyed about a smoking ban. "We are trying to get our shareholders' input."
But a policy change won't come without difficulties, she said.
"We know that this change is not going to be easy for some," Yingling said. "It's changing a culture and that takes time to do."
The college years are often a time when students begin smoking because of stress, drinking, social pressures and to control weight.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, almost 40 percent of college-aged smokers either began smoking or became regular smokers after starting college.
A survey of BGSU students last fall showed that approximately 70 percent said they had not smoked at all in the previous 30 days. Another 4.5 percent said they smoked daily. The remainder were somewhere in the middle.
The university will likely increase the smoking cessation programs on campus when the campus-wide ban is enacted, Carr said.
Once the campus smoking ban committee completes its final draft, the proposal will be sent to BGSU President Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey and to the board of trustees. Carr predicted the proposal will be on Mazey's desk by the end of this semester.
A least seven Ohio campuses have already enacted policies banning the sale of cigarettes and smoking anywhere on campus, including Miami University, Cleveland State, Hocking College and the Health Sciences Campus at the University of Toledo.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 08:50