OU Student Reacts To Tobacco Ban As University Figures Out Implementation

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Ohio University recently announced plans to move forward with intentions to implement a campus wide tobacco ban within the next three years. This week, university administrators presented their findings and plans to the Board of Trustees.

The plans have students like sophomore Ryan Carrigan concerned.

"It's not that there aren't compelling arguments against going smoke-free, it's that they're going un heard because of the social and moral stigma that I spoke to you about earlier," he said. "I think that, overall, because we use the point that it's for the public health of the university and the university students and officials that that trumps any argument that a smoker could make against, you know, that argument that it's down to personal choice and that we shouldn't be interfering in how they live their lives."

The University made the decision based on the Ohio Board of Regents recommendation in the summer of 2012 that all Ohio public universities consider eliminating tobacco from their campuses.

Then it was up to the individual universities to decide on how to proceed. At Ohio University, President Roderick McDavis appointed a task force to survey students and faculty and hold meetings to hear community concerns. McDavis appointed Ryan Lombardi, the vice president of student affairs, to lead the task force. He says that the ban will do nothing but good for Ohio University.

"There's no question that our employees would be healthier. We're reducing the amount of tobacco that would go into our employees lungs, into their bodies, and our students bodies," he said. "There is no guesswork when it comes to the negative impacts, that's fact. I think we'll be healthier and thats important. Now whether that makes us better or not better? That's another question."

Lombardi also says the ban would have financial benefits for OU. According to Lombardi's recent presentation to OU Student Senate, the university would save $3,400 a year for each employee that stopped smoking, meaning that if 30 employees quit smoking, it would save the university $100,000 per year. Those are savings that he says will be passed on to students.

The university is also considering spending money on support programs and educational services to help tobacco users quit.

"Those individuals that use tobacco, not all but many are addicted to tobacco and that is not an easy proposition to discontinue," Lombardi said. "We want to make sure we're providing those people, whether they're students, whether they're employees all of the support and resources they need to be successful."

Just what form those resources will take is yet to be determined. Ryan is worried about enforcement and what kinds of punishments the University could pursue for those who violate the tobacco ban.

"The thing about smoking that is not the same for drinking or drugs, at least for us since we're over the age of 18 is that it's a legal thing," he said. "And I don't believe the university should be an actor into people's lives and trying to change the decisions that they make just because some people disagree with them."

Ryan's is unsure if the ban is even enforceable…and those are questions even the University is grappling with. However, Ryan says it doesn't sound like the ban would do much to deter smokers like him from lighting up on campus.

"Would I still smoke? Probably, Ryan said. "I'm thankful I don't have to worry about it. I really hope they're serious about creating those designated smoking areas, I just don't know where they'd put them. It's kind of hard to figure that out."

Figuring out those details is the next step in this three-year journey toward a tobacco free Ohio University. Lombardi's next step is to work with students and employees to hammer out the details of this complex plan. Regardless of the variety of opinions surrounding this controversial issue, one thing's for certain: there are still more questions than answers.