Although Ohio State’s smoking ban aims to help its student, staff and faculty curb the habit, Ohio residents as a whole have resisted appeals to stop lighting up.
According to national surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking nationwide declined at a rate of 12 percent from 1984 to 2012. During the same time, smoking in Ohio declined about 5 percent, and about one in four Ohioans are smokers.
Micah Berman, an assistant professor of public health and law at OSU’s Moritz College of Law, attributed the difference to state budgeting, particularly concerning the dissolution of the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation in 2008.
“While that program was operating in the 2000s, the smoking rate was dropping,” Berman said. “Ohio was funding countermarketing … encouraging people to quit, it was funding a quit line, it was doing programming with youth around the state, it was helping to fund local tobacco policy … all of those take money and a coordinated effort, and Ohio really doesn’t have that right now.”
Daniel Margaroli, a fifth-year in aerospace engineering, said he hasn’t seen state level anti-smoking rhetoric for a while, but he also believes attitudes have changed and smoking isn’t as socially acceptable anymore.
“I know a lot of people that quit,” Margaroli said.
The foundation’s budget, $230 million, was mostly diverted toward a state stimulus package after the foundation was eliminated, according to Columbus Business First. For fiscal year 2014, Ohio has put forward $1.5 million toward the same goal, according to a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids press release. Berman said that level of funding is like “no response” compared to the $394.7 million the tobacco industry spends advertising its products to Ohioans each year.
Berman said Ohio has three areas it needs to focus on to discourage smoking.
“The one that Ohio is doing is implementing a strong smoke-free law, but Ohio is below average in terms of its tobacco tax, and it’s very close to the bottom of the list in terms of the amount of money it puts into tobacco control programming and tobacco prevention programming,” Berman said.
Ohio’s cigarette tax is $1.25 per pack, which is ranked the 29th highest in the U.S., according to a 2013 report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
OSU began enforcing its own smoking ban on Jan. 1. The ban includes cigarettes, tobacco chew, snuff and e-cigarettes.
OSU has spent about $43,000 of its $100,000 tobacco ban signage budget to make sure when visitors come to campus, they remember to put out their cigarettes. Signs have been placed outside several university buildings, including the Ohio Union, and banners have been hung in parking garages.
The money used comes from “benefit funds,” not a single department, and is administered on behalf of OSU by the Office of Human Resources, according to OSU spokesman Gary Lewis.
In a meeting with The Lantern Jan. 16, Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of Wexner Medical Center James Comprehensive Cancer Center, framed the smoking ban in the context of the strategies Berman listed.
“It actually does make a difference, and we know in tobacco control no single thing that we do is a magic bullet … it’s all a package,” Shields said.
Interim President Joseph Alutto said he believes with time, the tobacco ban will make people healthier.
“At another meeting the other night that was raised with me, which was that ‘Should we have a no tobacco use policy on this campus when we’re not going to enforce it absolutely?’ And the response I gave was, ‘That’s life. You can’t always do everything at the extremes,’” Alutto said in a meeting with The Lantern Tuesday. “We will do everything we can to discourage people from doing it, but we’re not going to put them in jail and we’re not going to arrest them and we’re not going to do all the extreme things that people would like us to do, but over time, with success of approximations, we hope to be able to convince increasing numbers of individuals that it’s not healthy.”
Mohannad Alsobaihi, a first-year in medical lab science, said while he is a smoker, he thinks the ban is fair.
“I want to smoke, but it does not mean that I want to hurt (others),” Alsobaihi said. “It has to be prohibited. It might help me quit.”
Berman said the university’s smoking ban is important because students who get through their college years without starting to smoke are “very unlikely” to start.
Shields said that’s part of the reasoning behind OSU’s ban.
“(Smoking is) really an adolescent disease. I mean most times people start smoking 11 years old, 12 years old, 14 years old, 15 years old, but it takes years to get really addicted,” he said. “It’s during the college years that really some people get cemented it. So if we cut that off before they come here … we’re hoping for this trickle down effect.”
Berman said, however, the tougher issue for the state is targeting Ohioans with less education.
“The smoking rate for (Ohio) adults who have not graduated high school is over 40 percent, which is … astoundingly high, and those are groups who are hard to reach,” Berman said.
Shields’ answer was to address cultural acceptance of smoking.
“It’s not about enforcement, it’s about a culture of compliance,” Shields said.