Though there will be no police enforcement of the Ohio State campus tobacco ban, some officials and students, including OSU’s interim president, believe peer pressure will be enough to make people kick the habit.
OSU Interim President Joseph Alutto said the tobacco ban will make smokers feel uneasy about smoking on campus.
“We’re going to make it … as uncomfortable as possible for you not to be consistent with the values of the institution,” Alutto said in an interview with The Lantern Sept. 23. “If you want to call that coercive, then yes, it’s going to be coercive.”
Alutto said instituting the ban without initial enforcement will give students, faculty and staff who smoke time to adjust to a smoke-free campus.
“We’re not going to come down and hit you on the head at the beginning and say you have to do it,” Alutto said. “We’re going to give you time to adjust and time to understand why, and we’re going to work with you to get to the point where we think makes sense for your lives and our lives as well.”
In July 2012, the Ohio Board of Regents, an Ohio governing education body, passed a resolution recommending that all Ohio public universities work toward becoming tobacco-free. In April, OSU’s Board of Trustees voted to institute its own university-wide ban beginning Aug. 1.
Besides cigarettes, the tobacco ban includes tobacco chew, snuff and snus, which is a “spitless,” moist powder tobacco pouch, according to the American Cancer Society.
However, enforcement of the ban was pushed back to January in order to allow for more thorough education of the policy, OSU spokesman Gary Lewis told The Lantern in August.
The ban will be enforced through OSU Human Resources and the Student Conduct Board.
Peter Shields, deputy director of the Wexner Medical Center James Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the enforcement will not be any less effective just because it’s not a legal matter University Police would be able to enforce.
“There is a misconception quite frankly that police are the only methods of enforcement,” Shields said. “When someone shows up late to work at the university, you don’t call the police. When a student cheats on a test, you don’t call the police. We enforce student policies through the student mechanisms and councils, and we enforce policies for employees … through policies for staff through HR.”
The Wexner Medical Center area has been designated as tobacco-free since 2006 and has strict punishments for employees caught smoking, Shields said.
“The Med Center … will fire people if they are caught smoking on campus after two times,” Shields said. “They did that after many years of what they considered culture change and education so that they felt like enough people got the concept, and they had all their systems in place for counseling people to stop smoking and employee orientations.”
Shields said he hopes OSU will never have to enforce that level of punishment for the entire university.
Alutto said he does not think OSU will ever need to be a big part of enforcing the tobacco ban because disapproval from students and colleagues will be enough.
“Your friends will be asking, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” Alutto said. “Ultimately that’s the enforcement we should have here. It’s the informal enforcement of colleagues. People care about each other. That’s consistent without our historical values system. It’s not consistent for us to be arresting people, giving them summons and doing all the heavy handed enforcement that you can do in other institutions and it’s accepted as a norm.”
Some smokers on campus said peer pressure will make an impact.
“If you are smoking outside and people see you and you are not supposed to smoke, having them telling you not to smoke will cause an impact,” said Daniel Ospina Acero, a second-year graduate student in computer engineering who smokes.
Other smokers on campus said a tobacco ban enforced by only peer pressure will not have a substantial impact.
“There is already the stigma and you are already getting dirty looks from some people,” said Jon Bauer, a first-year in pharmaceutical science who smokes. “People are going to keep smoking just as they are now. It’s an addiction. If you try to ban it, it is not going to suddenly make people quit on a certain arbitrary date in January.”
Shields said students might eventually volunteer to be trained as ambassadors to go around and inform those smoking on campus about the tobacco ban.
“It depends on how many students volunteer to do this, but for sure it helps,” Shields said. “It is a simple sort of training, to be polite when (you) go up to someone and say, ‘Hey, the policy here is that you’re really not allowed to smoke.’ If someone becomes belligerent, they (the students) will be trained to walk away.”
Brock Keaton, a first-year in business who is a nonsmoker, said enforcement is going to be the hardest part of implementing the smoking ban.
“Smoking has kind of always been a part of American culture,” Keaton said. “There are a lot of people that do smoke so there is going to be a lot of resentment towards this … Enforcement is the main problem with the smoking ban on campus.”
Keaton said if smokers are told by students not to smoke on campus, it will have a greater impact than if the message came from an official.
“It would be more effective coming from a student or a friend rather than an authoritative official because it’s our school, too,” Keaton said. “We all care about it.”
Bauer said the tobacco ban will eventually help smokers to cut back and quit smoking.
“Eventually it will (be effective),” Bauer said. “Subconsciously, there is going to be an effect and it will be another thing that makes me want to quit and quit sooner. I think it is kind of good for smokers in a way.”