State tobacco revenue (left

Smoking Bans, State

The new smoking ban at Ohio State University will rely on peer pressure, not punishment, to stop smokers from lighting up on campus.

Students will return from winter break on Monday under a new policy that forbids any tobacco use on university property. But rather than penalize violators, the new rules rely on passers-by to remind smokers politely of the ban.

“The success of this policy depends upon the thoughtfulness, consideration and cooperation of tobacco users and non-tobacco users, ” the policy states.

To help back up the new rule, teams of student and faculty volunteers will roam campus in two- to four-hour shifts seeking smokers and asking them to stop. Organizers of the ban have plans to distribute thousands of informational cards in coming weeks that can be handed to smokers as a quieter plea to stop.

Yesterday, some students and staff continued to smoke outside OSU buildings or while walking across campus. They were familiar with the ban but said it would take a stronger penalty to make them think twice. Still, one leader of the anti-tobacco initiative said he’s not deterred.

“This ban is going to work. We know that it works because we’re not the first university to do this, ” said Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of the university’s cancer center. “People will understand that they aren’t allowed to smoke or use tobacco, and so they begin to follow policies."

But there is little recourse in the policy for those who refuse to listen. Police can pass out the informational cards but can’t force anyone to comply.

“This is a university policy and not a law, therefore law enforcement officials will not issue citations for policy infractions, ” OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email.

Students or university employees who repeatedly disobey the ban could be referred for discipline under existing codes of conduct that require them to follow university policies, Shields said. But nothing requires tobacco users to identify themselves, and there is no complaint system even if they do.

The ban was supposed to start in August amid a push by the Ohio Board of Regents to rid public-college campuses of tobacco use. The regents cited potential health and economic benefits. Organizers at OSU delayed the ban until Jan. 1, saying they needed more time to spread their message.

In the past week, workers have been taping up paper signs at building entrances to explain the ban, and permanent signs have been installed elsewhere.

“Hopefully, what it does is get some people to quit, ” Shields said.

Under the policy, those who refuse to stop must leave campus to use tobacco.

Ohio State joins at least 14 other private and public schools in Ohio that have gone tobacco-free in parts or all of their campuses, said Jeff Robinson, spokesman for the Board of Regents. About 1, 200 colleges across the country have adopted bans, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

At Bowling Green State University, classes will resume Jan. 13 under a new ban that also is largely self-policed. But unlike at OSU, where tobacco use is off-limits in parking areas, Bowling Green permits tobacco use in certain parking lots.

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