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Editorial: Ohio State tobacco ban won’t be taken seriously without strict enforcement

OSU is planning to enforce a campus-wide tobacco ban in January 2014 that will prohibit the use of cigarettes and other products on campus.

OSU is planning to enforce a campus-wide tobacco ban in January 2014 that will prohibit the use of cigarettes and other products on campus. Credit: Lantern file photo

If a campus-wide ban is created but not enforced, did it happen at all?

Technically, the looming Ohio State tobacco-ban has been implemented in its education stage but not enforced on campus all semester, but it’s not uncommon to see smokers casually lighting up in buildings’ loading docks. Technically, when the ban is expected to be enforced in January 2014, rule-breakers won’t be held to strict and immediate repercussions for smoking between classes or on the walk to their car.

So, technically, does it matter?

Based on the reporting The Lantern has done over the past year, we think not.

In theory, the campus-wide smoking ban is a great idea. Smoking is bad for the health of smokers and others around them, so naturally it makes sense for a university like OSU, with a world-renowned Medical Center and cutting edge research, to be against it.

In theory, it’s understandable why some students or staff would be upset about being forced to stop smoking on campus. No one likes an inconvenient rule change, whether the university has the right to make that decision or not. Which it does.

Also in theory, it would be a ridiculous use of resources to have our university police officers stopping students on the Oval and asking them to put out their cigs, or showing up in the back row of lecture halls to tell students they can’t use chewing tobacco.

So in reality, what should the smoking ban do? The answer is nothing, which is demonstrated by the lack of serious enforcement behind the plan.

The tobacco-ban is all bark, no bite.

In July 2012, the Ohio Board of Regents, an Ohio governing education body, recommended all Ohio public universities implement a tobacco ban. OSU followed suit with its own ban that was initially expected to be launched in August, according to a university-wide email sent by former OSU President E. Gordon Gee.

But August rolled around and the ban was pushed back.

Back in March at an editorial board interview with The Lantern, Gee discussed the ban which, at the time, would be recommended for adoption by the Board of Trustees the next month.

“We are recommending that we 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.”

At the time, Gee did not specify the methods the university would use to enforce it.

Until very recently, no one had.

In September, The Lantern reported the smoking ban would not be enforced by university police but instead, reported offenders would be held accountable to OSU Human Resources and the Student Code of Conduct.

Punishments for students could range from letters of reprimand, which are written letters issued because of a student’s misconduct, to dismissal.

Anyone can report a violation, but the question is who would take the time to do such a thing?

For this we reference the bystander effect, a psychological phenomenon in which individuals do not offer help to a person in need if there are other people around who they assume will do it instead.

Except in this case there is no victim, it’s a smoker lurking behind the Ohio Union, and 911 isn’t involved. It’s instead the heavy hand of an OSU crackdown.

Would you call this one in? Our guess is no.

If OSU wants a ban to be taken seriously, then the university should focus on creating rules it knows it can and will enforce.

5 comments

  1. My Ohio State education helped get me to a position in life where I can relax and enjoy a fine cigar when I so desire. Next time I visit campus, I’ll be sure to enjoy a cigar on the oval!

  2. I can’t wait for everywhere to be SMOKE FREE because I have asthma and one little whif of smoke makes me ill. GO OHIO STATE AND GO TO ANYONE WHO ENFORCES THE NON SMOKING BANS!!!

  3. I agree with this article. No bite to this ban. It makes me sick to my stomach every time I have to travel through a cloud of your cancer smoke. I actually have to hold my breath or I start coughing. If you want to give yourself cancer, please, do it someplace else.

  4. My problem is not with the ban, it is with the definition of the word tobacco:

    Tobacco is defined as all tobacco-derived or containing products, including and not limited to, cigarettes (e.g., clove, bidis, kreteks), electronic cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos, hookah smoked products, pipes, and oral tobacco (e.g., spit and spitless, smokeless, chew, snuff) and nasal tobacco (e.g. snus). It also includes any product intended to mimic tobacco products, contain tobacco flavoring, or deliver nicotine other than for the purpose of cessation.

    That is the word for word from the policy.

    I have smoked for 10 years. Recently, I have switched to a propylene glycol electronic vaporizer. There have been no studies that have found any of the health related issues connected to these. In fact, many countries have embraced them as a healthy alternative to smoking tobacco and the most effective way to quit smoking. I tend to agree. But under this definition of tobacco, my vaporizer is an “electronic cigarette”. And, under this verbiage, candy cigarettes are tobacco. This is ludicrous. This is lazy policy making and skates on the wrong side of morality for a public university.

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