Words by Emily Fulmer
Kent State University – both main and regional campuses – will become a completely smoke-free, tobacco-free campus.
The policy comes out of University President Beverly Warren’s mission to make Kent State University the healthiest college campus in the country. It is also part of the university’s healthy campus initiative, Kent State of Wellness.
The new policy was approved by the board of trustees in May of 2016.
“It fell right into our broader initiative, which is to be a healthy campus not only for employees but for students, visitors, contractors, anybody associated with Kent State University,” says Kimberly Hauge, the director of employee wellness and co-chair of the implementation committee. “Obviously, if you’re trying to become the healthiest campus in the nation, you need to address the smoke and tobacco issue, which is one of the most preventable causes of death yet.”
The smoke-free campus policy will ban the use of all smoking and tobacco products on any KSU-owned or leased property including the field house and Dix Stadium. It also bans individuals from using smoking or tobacco products in their car on campus.
Although this will be a change for tobacco users on campus, Hauge hopes this will encourage users to consider quitting smoking and live a healthier lifestyle.
“When you ask a smoker if they would like to quit or if they wish they’d never started, the answer in most cases is ‘yes’,” she says. “They would like to quit but they don’t know how, they need that extra motivation.”
Hauge also stated that by waiting until July to implement the policy, it allows individuals who do smoke to adjust to the change they will experience.
Communication pieces have popped up all over campus throughout the academic year using a tagline “let’s clear the air” to help create a healthy learning environment for students. These communication pieces can be seen on PARTA bus stops, in campus buildings and on video display monitors across campus. Signage will also be visible to individuals approaching the campus whether by walking or vehicle.
Michael Bruder, executive director of facilities planning and design, stated another part of implementing the policy will include the removal of all cigarette receptacles. As the date the policy goes into effect approaches, signage around campus will begin to change.
Once the policy is fully implemented, vinyl clings will be placed on the glass in all academic buildings and residence halls at all campuses to further communicate the policy and to consolidate communication materials.
“If you look at some of our buildings now, we have smoking signs, firearm signs, and handicap access signs with building hours, so we’re trying to consolidate all that into a building cling that will have the name on the building as well,” he says.
The university spends a lot of time picking up cigarette butts off the ground, Bruder says. He believes the smoke-free policy will keep the campus looking better and help save money.
“We have about 15 percent of people that are associated with the campus that are smokers,” he says. “If you walk through a crowd of people right outside a front door–and they’re a group of smokers–a lot of people don’t like that, so not having that around I think will make people feel more comfortable and at ease on campus.”
Carla Wyckoff, the director of communications and special projects in the division of business and finance, says the policy will be translated for international students to understand it. The policy has already been translated into Chinese and Arabic.
“We know that there are some cultures where smoking is more prominent than it is here, so we want to be cognizant of that,” she says.
Wyckoff says the committee has gone out and talked to groups of people, such as athletics, to inform them of the new policy. In addition, she stated that posters have been sent to building curators at the both the main and regional campuses along with a countdown clock on the policy’s website.
On May 3, an email from Vice President Shay Little and Senior Vice President Mark Polatajko was sent to the KSU students, faculty and staff reminding the community of the change occurring over the summer.
Wyckoff and the committee have been working closely with Destination Kent State and other orientation programs to target incoming students. Perspective students currently going through admissions and going on campus tours will also be informed of the policy.
“Admissions has included [the policy] in their information and view books letting people know that we will be smoke and tobacco-free,” she says.
While the policy will be enforced on campus, if a student does not abide by the policy there will be no severe repercussions.
Todd Kamenash, assistant dean of students and director of student conduct, says there will be no police enforcement for those who violate the policy. Rather, those who are caught smoking on KSU property will simply be given a reminder that the campus is a tobacco-free space. However, a student may be referred to the student conduct by another individual if caught smoking.
“It’s going to have to be reported to us,” he says. “Students, faculty and staff can report things to us. If the person is identified as a student, then they will be referred to our office.”
As with any student conduct case, there will be no specified outcome, he says.
Kamenash says that with smoking being a medically proven addiction it will be a challenge for some individuals to comply.
“We’re hopeful that people will choose healthy options but we also respect that it’s not going to be smooth sailing,” he says.
The full, written policy is available and can be found here.
Emily Fulmer is the student health reporter for The Burr.