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Ohio State tobacco ban violators may face sanctions

Former OSU President E. Gordon Gee said the university would implement a tobacco-free policy by Aug. 1, but enforcement of the ban is being delayed until 2014. Credit: Photo illustration by Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Former OSU President E. Gordon Gee said the university would implement a tobacco-free policy by Aug. 1, but enforcement of the ban is being delayed until 2014. Credit: Photo illustration by Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Ohio State is asking smokers to leave their cigarettes at home this school year, and if employees or students don’t comply, they could be facing university sanctions in the spring.

Former Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee said the university would implement a new tobacco-free policy by Aug. 1, but enforcement of the ban is being delayed until 2014.

“We’re unveiling the initiative this semester and the actual policy we’ll unveil in January 2014,” OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said.

During Fall Semester, the university will work on educating students, faculty and staff on the change before punitive actions are taken against on-campus smokers the following semester.

Interim President Joseph Alutto said the delayed enforcement will be beneficial to the overall goal of making the university a healthier place.

“This is very important for everyone and we’re going to do everything we can… to encourage that behavior and over time give people time to adjust,” Alutto said in an interview with The Lantern.

Dave Robinson, who has been smoking for about 30 years, said he thinks OSU is doing a good thing and wishes he had never started smoking.

“It’s going to be hard,” Robinson said while in town dropping off his freshman son. “I’m sure there are going to be some cheaters.”

For some smokers the adjustment could be a difficult undertaking, but one student smoker said he understands why the change is being made.

“I think it’s probably a good idea, I’m trying to quit myself … I have no problem with it at all,” said fifth-year in English Kevin Connolly. “It’ll stop people from smoking. It kind of forces people to stop.”

Lewis said “there are going to be sanctions” for those who reportedly break the campus tobacco-ban, which for students will fall under the Student Code of Conduct and for faculty and staff will fall under Human Resources policy.

What the exact punishment for offenders will be is to be determined on a “case-to-case” basis based on other factors, including previous policy violations.

“Right now we are in a cultural change of getting that word out,” Lewis said.

According to the OSU Office of Human Resources guide to “successful implementation” of the policy, members of the OSU community are encouraged to inform those using tobacco on campus of the ban and gives tips on how to approach an individual.

Connolly said he wasn’t sure how effective the enforcement would be, but said campus smokers “are going to get tired of people yelling at them sooner or later” if they don’t follow the ban.

The policy implementation guide also says an OSU tobacco-free website is expected to launch in September.

The Ohio Board of Regents, which holds no ruling authority over Ohio’s education institutions, passed a resolution suggesting Ohio’s public universities move toward tobacco-free campuses in July 2012. Later that year, the OSU Board of Trustees agreed to explore the suggestion.

As of last November, 14 Ohio universities were smoke-free, and since then seven have considered or enacted new regulations.

According to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, tobacco-free policies have been enacted at 798 college campuses in the nation. Besides cigarettes, the tobacco bans include tobacco chew, snuff and snus, which is a“spitless,” moist powder tobacco pouch, according to the American Cancer Society.

Gee initially said the ban would go into effect Aug. 1 in a March interview with The Lantern editorial board.

“We are recommending to move to a tobacco-free campus, I think that’s very important,” Gee said. “We have a tobacco free medical center, and now, we want to have a tobacco-free campus.”

The OSU Board of Trustees approved the revision of OSU’s smoke-free policy in April.

Lewis said in an email OSU is committed to becoming one of the “healthiest campus communities in the country” and said “visual aid signage” is being developed to spread the tobacco-free message.

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