Main Campus community asked to vote on tobacco use

November 24, 2009 | UToday
By Kim Goodin

The University’s Main Campus community has an opportunity to shape future policy regarding tobacco use.

About 22,000 students and 2,500 faculty and staff received surveys by e-mail last week. Each survey consists of one statement with three possible “votes” regarding tobacco use on Main Campus:

• Establish a tobacco-free campus;

• Designate four outdoor areas for tobacco use; or

• No change from UT’s current policy affecting Main Campus, which prohibits tobacco use in buildings but allows it outdoors, 30 feet from these structures.

Links to the surveys will be available through myUT accounts until Friday, Dec. 18. Each respondent can vote only once.

“This is about being healthy,” said Jo Campbell, director of residence life and a member of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Committee, which is sponsoring the survey. “If we’re going to have changes to our tobacco policy, we’d like our student population to have a leadership role.”

The surveys were distributed in conjunction with the Great American Smokeout, which takes place in mid-November each year. All members of the Main Campus student body, as well as its full-time faculty and staff members, are eligible to participate.

Any change in policy will be based on survey results and additional data, and take effect for the 2010-11 academic year.

“We’re giving this a long lead time in case the survey indicates the Main Campus community would like a change,” Campbell said. Feedback, she noted, has been mixed.

“I’ve gotten one response that asked why UT would encroach on a personal freedom. Another supported the ban, but wondered how it would be enforced.”

The committee will reconvene in January to discuss survey results and craft a recommendation for Main Campus leadership. Campbell and other members of the committee previously have met with several student organizations, including Undergraduate Student Government and the Resident Student Association, to discuss students’ attitudes toward tobacco use on Main Campus.

“The reality is four-fifths of the population doesn’t smoke,” Campbell said. “Tobacco is completely banned on the Health Science Campus, and I predict the majority of our voters will vote for some restriction on Main Campus.”

In 2006, Health Science Campus joined 22 fellow members of the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio in banning tobacco use.

Krystal Weaver, Student Government president, said, as a private citizen, she’d support a ban of tobacco products. “But as a representative of the student body, I prefer a compromise,” she said. “I expect there to be some type of change to UT’s current policy, but it all depends on the survey results.”

Campbell said tobacco use is considered a major health concern by the American College Health Association, a federal agency that tracks health trends in institutes of higher education. She noted that 365 universities in the United States have some type of restrictions on campus use, and one Ohio institution, Hocking College, is entirely tobacco-free.

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