This summer, on July 1, The University of Akron became a smoke and tobacco-free campus making it one of almost 2,000 college campuses across the United States that have instituted the same or similar policies. In Ohio, the University is joined by major learning institutions such as Kent State, Ohio State, Bowling Green State, and many others that not only prohibit cigarettes but other forms of tobacco as well.
A smoke and tobacco-free policy goes beyond banning cigarettes. Anything containing nicotine or tobacco that is inhaled, absorbed, ingested, or consumed in any way falls under the ban. The electronic cigarette and vaping has recently become more popular on campus; often thought of as a cleaner alternative to regular cigarettes. However, this form will also be prohibited on the campus.
Besides providing a comprehensive list of substances, the University’s new policy also widens the scope of where people are allowed to use them. Formerly, smoking was allowed 25 feet away from the entrance of any campus building. Inclement weather had many people cozying up to the doors as they sought cover from the rain or respite from freezing weather. Now, the ban includes all University property, including parking lots and decks, vehicles (even your own car) on the property, and any University sponsored events. Like the old rule, the new one includes everyone.
No one is exempt from the University’s move towards a more welcoming campus. The University’s president, Matthew Wilson, said that besides students, “All university faculty, staff, and student employees share the responsibility for maintaining a healthy work environment.” While no specific penalties have been outlined on the University’s web page, President Wilson hopes “that everyone on our campus will respect this policy voluntarily.” Campus Wellness encourages everyone to politely remind each other of the new rule as awareness of it increases.
Although the policy might catch a few returning students off guard, talks of going smoke and tobacco-free have been taking place for a few years. In 2006, Ohio enacted a statewide smoking ban in all enclosed public spaces and workplaces according to the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Department of Education reported that in 2012, the Ohio Board of Regents passed a resolution urging institutions of the University System of Ohio to adopt a tobacco-free campus policy.
President Wilson cited this resolution saying that in response the University began discussing the issue. He added that, with the support of various groups such as Student Government and the Board of Trustees, talks have led to a plan “designed to support the University’s mission to offer people the means to improve their lives through improved health.” Campus Wellness writes that the new policy is “in keeping with our goal of being a safe, healthy, clean, respectful and welcoming campus.”
With campus health and cleanliness in mind, the University has not left current smokers out in the cold. On the web page uakron.edu/tobacco-free, Campus Wellness explains the new policy but also provides links and information on where to find assistance if students or employees want to quit smoking. Student Health Services, located in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, provides a free program from the American Lung Association. The department can also prescribe medications or nicotine replacements if applicable. For employees, a free Quit Center is offered through the IMPACT Employee Assistance & Work/Life Program.
Going smoke and tobacco-free is meant to address the many complaints of secondhand smoke and litter from cigarette butts while promoting a healthier and cleaner campus. However, this could also be seen as a move to appeal to potential students and their families. Contemplating the likelihood of this added benefit, President Wilson said that he hopes the policy “will attract students because it will enhance our institutional profile as a socially responsible community leader that cares about the health of its students and visitors to campus.”