Photo Caption: This ashtray in front of OU Alden Library likely will be relegated to the ash-bin of history after the campus-wide smoking ban goes into effect in the 2015-16 school year.
An Ohio University official confirmed last week that the university plans to fully implement and enforce a campus-wide ban on smoking in the 2015-2016 academic year. For now, that ban includes use of cigarettes as well as e-cigarettes on any campus property.
Ryan Lombardi, OU vice president for student affairs, in a recent interview that there will be no designated smoking zones on the Athens campus.
"You can't use tobacco on university property. On the grounds, in the buildings, on the sidewalk the university owns, " he said. "We can't control anything that happens outside of the university grounds."
Athens City Council person Steve Patterson said last Monday that he's concerned about that aspect of the plan forcing student smokers, and more damagingly, their cigarette butts, onto the public sidewalks, streets and alleyways of the city.
"It's going to drive anybody who chooses to smoke cigarettes out onto the public right-of-way," Patterson said. "At that point, are they going to put the cigarette butt in their pocket and dispose of it on campus? My best guess as a psychologist is no; they'll throw it somewhere."
Lombardi said the university plans to use a "community, Good-Samaritan kind of model" to enforce the smoking ban. He said the school currently has no specific plans for disciplinary action for students who smoke on campus, outside of repeat offenders being sent to OU's Office of Community Standards to "talk to somebody."
Lombardi said he recognizes that the ban will be difficult to enforce, but said that it makes the most sense for the university fiscally to enforce it via a community model, and that he doesn't want the university grounds to "become a police state."
"I really don't see this as situation where students have to be separated from the university, or an employee has to be terminated," he said. "That is not a desired outcome on anybody's part."
Lombardi said he wants language to be clear from day one of a student's attendance, or employment, at OU that smoking is not allowed. He said students' bosses at campus jobs can discipline those who repeatedly break the rule.
Lombardi said a series of campus initiatives are planned to notify students and employees of the new smoking ban throughout this coming year. He said the university is also looking at creating a number of smoking cessation programs and classes to help students quit. Attendance could be mandatory after a certain number of times a student is caught smoking on campus.
"You don't need to threaten people with fines," Lombardi said. "I get it, I don't want to dismiss that argument as a valid argument, but it also feels like a middle school or high school approach. College students have a higher level of developmental thinking and cognitive reasoning than for us to say, 'I've got to put a fine in place or a prohibition of some kind.'"
Lombardi said future employees will be notified of the smoking ban in the coming year, and that the university's health-insurance policy does include coverage for cessation classes. While OU's regional campuses also will enforce the ban, Lombardi said that some of the campuses may still have one or more designated smoking zones.
He said information from former students at the University of Toledo - which banned smoking on its main campus in 2011 - pointed to designated smoking zones not working out on college campuses in Ohio.
"Some transfer students from Toledo told us what a disaster the designated smoking zones were," Lombardi said. "People didn't think the ban was real. They (transfer students) felt like that limited effectiveness of the whole ban in the first place."
Patterson said he has been working on tentative plans for the city of Athens to install cigarette "butt boxes" or "butt bins" on city sidewalks.
"We would take the smoking bins and mount them on every other Court Street lamp pole, and do a public service campaign to inform people about the program," he said.
Patterson said he has talked with a company out of Groveport, Ohio about taking the butts and recycling them into new materials. He said cigarette butts already account for about 30 percent of all litter in the city's public right-of-way.
Patterson also said he has talked with Wayne Savage, coordinator at Passion Works Studio, about getting some unique artwork on the boxes from the individuals with disabilities the program serves.
"My vision is that this also could potentially create part-time meaningful employment for individuals living with disabilities," he said. "They could take the boxes to a central location and work to get them shipped."
Full implementation of OU's smoking ban is slated on the Athens campus for the 2015-2016 academic year.