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The smoking gun: debate over non-smoking initiative continues

September 26th, 2013

When one recalls all that they learned in their collegiate career, very rarely do they hold “smoker’s lung” and “melanoma” in high esteem. To ensure that graduates’ accomplishments are void of these proficiencies in the ensuing years, John Carroll University is pushing to become a smoke-free campus.

The current smoking policy at JCU is no secret. Prior to the statewide smoking law created in 2006, JCU designated “smoke-free” entrances to buildings in order to provide non-smokers with a smog-free entrance to class. Before the dawn of the much-debated smoking law, a JCU English professor supposedly set their trash-can ablaze due to a wandering cigarette, setting a whole new kind of fire in the minds of students longing for change.

In November 2006, a law was passed in Ohio that made workplaces and public places smoke-free. Because JCU is a place of employment, the University is lawfully obligated to abide by the regulations already in place. The smoking regulations at JCU currently prohibit smoking in all buildings on campus and, if one chooses to smoke, one must do so outside of the building. Although students and faculty no longer have to worry about combusting trash cans, the ever-present cloud of secondhand smoke on the way to class is up for reexamination.

The possibility of moving towards becoming a smoke-free or tobacco-free campus has been discussed for a few years. Although the policy is still in its formative stages, Megan Dzurec, coordinator of health and promotion at JCU, believes that this new protocol could be wildly successful.

“The state of Ohio does not ban smoking on college campuses, but we have the power, as a university, to be a trailblazer for Ohio colleges and become a part of a movement that does ban the use of tobacco products on our campus,” Dzurec said. “We will not be the first campus in Ohio to be tobacco-free, but I certainly do not want to see JCU as one of the last.”

The foremost goal of becoming a tobacco-free campus is the improvement of overall health. According to JCU’s National College Health Assessment (2013), approximately 87 percent of the student population leads a cigarette-free lifestyle. Only about two percent of JCU students are daily users of tobacco products. Twenty-five percent of the smoking population became avid smokers after they arrived at JCU, indicating a deeper need for policy change.

Although JCU is one of the first colleges in Ohio to breach the topic, the University is by no means a policy-pioneer. Cleveland State University implemented a tobacco-free policy that became effective at the beginning of the 2013 fall semester. The policy eliminates the use of tobacco in virtually every setting imaginable, enforcing the rule with every member of the CSU population, including visitors.

Many members of the JCU community hope to join the merry brigade of anti-tobacco universities, with support from both professors and students.

Richard Clark, a professor of criminology at JCU, believes that an anti-tobacco policy would be beneficial.

“This kind of policy would help create a nicer campus,” he said. “The cost of providing for the smokers is huge; a policy like this could push many of them off campus.”

When asked the expected question of banned tobacco playing the role of “forbidden fruit” at JCU, Clark thought that the concept was a non-issue.

“We’re dealing with adults,” he said. “You should no longer feel the need to rebel. This could potentially be something that we see with drug use, but not with cigarettes.”

John McBratney, a JCU English professor, shares similar thoughts. As a graduate professor, McBratney sees a higher level of smokers on a daily basis. Although he said that having smokers in his class is not a problem, he thinks that the policy would be a good one to have in place.

“Smoking is very bad for young people, seeing as it is a hard habit to kick,” he said.

Along with some faculty support, many students applaud the effort.

“Although I empathize with the fact that smoking is an incredibly hard habit to quit, as a non-smoker, it would be a nice change,” said freshman Marissa Panzarella. “Even switching to electronic cigarettes would be a massive step in the right direction. Having three years of a smoke-free campus would be great.”

Along with student and faculty support, “Fat Chris” of Schott Dining Hall is behind the initiative. Although he is an admitted smoker himself, Chris said he is taking the idea in stride.

“Although it might change the way we do things, if it’s for the better, then it’s fine with me,” he said.

With discussion of the policy still in place, JCU students should not be looking for any Vatican II-esque changes in the current school year.

“It would be great to ring in the new year of 2014 with a tobacco-free policy,” said Dzurec.