Two major universities in the region are going smoke-free and tobacco-free beginning Saturday.
Kent State University, including its eight regional campuses, and the University of Akron no longer will allow smoking or tobacco use on any of the properties they own, operate or lease under policies adopted by each university's Board of Trustees last year.
While the change will most impact the students and faculty on campus, the new policies also will affect smokers and tobacco users attending an on-campus event, such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic & Fireworks that will be held July 28-30 on parts of Kent State University at Stark's campus.
Here are six things to know about the new rules:
1. Kent and Akron join nearly 30 other Ohio colleges and universities that have banned smoking campuswide. In Stark County, Malone University and Aultman College of Nursing & Health Sciences also are smoke-free. When they approved the smoke-free, tobacco-free policies, Kent and Akron officials cited the growing concerns of about the harmful effects of smoking and second-hand smoke as their primary reasons for enacting the bans. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 22 percent of Ohio college-age adults smoke, which is higher than the national average of 13 percent. The CDC also has found that 99 percent of smokers tried tobacco before age 26. The universities also anticipate other benefits from the smoking and tobacco bans, such as reduced health and property insurance, reduced risk of fire and lower maintenance needs, but officials said it's too early to calculate the expected savings.
2. The new rules ban nearly all use of tobacco and nicotine, whether it's smoked, vaped, heated, chewed, absorbed, dissolved or ingested by any means including mod boxes and electronic devices that create an aerosol or vapor. Restricted items include cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, cloves, hookahs, e-cigarettes, herbal and oil vaporizers, pipes, water pipes and all smokeless tobacco. Exceptions to the policies include controlled research, educational, clinical, or religious ceremonial purposes that have prior university approval. Both universities also permit the use of nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches, gum, inhalers and lozenges.
3. Visitors to the Balloon Classic & Fireworks, to an event held at Kent State Stark's Corporate University and Conference Center or to any other event on any Kent State or University of Akron property also must follow the smoking and tobacco-use ban. Both universities also forbid smoking and tobacco use inside personal vehicles that are parked on university property. Akron also prohibits the smoking and tobacco use at university sponsored events, regardless of venue.
4. University officials at both Kent and Akron hope to see voluntary compliance of the new policies and will remind violators of the rule and asked them to comply. Students and employees who repeatedly refuse to follow the policy could face disciplinary action, similar to the discipline they would face for violating any other university policy.
5. Stark State College, which shares its Jackson Township campus with Kent State at Stark, still permits smoking and smokeless tobacco use in designated areas. Stark State spokeswoman Marisa Rohn said the college's wellness committee is researching whether to institute a smoke-free or tobacco-free policy for its sites and plans to review a student survey on the topic in July. She said Stark State will not block Kent smokers from crossing over to its campus and expects them to remain respectful if they do. "We'll see how this plays out and if we need to do something different because of an issue, we'll address it," she said.
6. Research on the impact of smoking bans has shown the prohibition can be effective. Ohio State University and Purdue University researchers who studied city smoking bans found that casual male smokers were more likely to give up cigarettes once a city smoking ban took effect, but a ban had almost no effect on women or existing heavy smokers. Researchers at Indiana University compared its campus, where smoking was banned in 2008, to a nearby university where smoking was allowed in certain outdoor areas and found the ban significantly had reduced student smoking at Indiana during a two-year period and that more Indiana students had developed a favorable attitude toward smoking regulations. Other research has shown that campuses that enact tobacco-free policies have not witnessed a decrease in enrollment following the ban.