Home Education Opinion: Should OU Go Tobacco-Free?

Opinion: Should OU Go Tobacco-Free?

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It is not uncommon for non-smoking students at Ohio University to complain about having to walk on the sidewalk or up Morton Hill behind students who are smoking. Many have even offered up the suggestion that Ohio University go tobacco-free. There are at least seven public colleges and universities in Ohio that have gone tobacco-free and a few partial tobacco-free policies. These universities include Miami University, Hocking College, Cedarville University and Ashland University.

In October, Ohio University formed an ad hoc tobacco-free task force to investigate whether the university would like to pursue a tobacco-free campus. The Ohio Board of Regents passed a resolution in July recommending “that each board of trustees of the Ohio University System of Ohio shall consider implementing its own policy to establish its campus as tobacco-free.” But should the university ban tobacco on campus, or is it an issue of students’ rights and freedoms?

It’s obvious that tobacco poses serious health concerns. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 there have been 10,270 new cases of lung cancer in Ohio; 7,530 of those resulted in death. In addition, they estimated that 40,250 new cases of lip, oral cavity and pharynx cancers occured nationwide, with 7,850 resulting in death. Many smokers ask, so what? People are able to put themselves at risk for cancer if they want, right? My issue isn’t with tobacco users, it is with the health of those who may inhale secondhand smoke. When combined with heart disease which smoking puts you at risk for, lung cancer claims roughly 49,000 people in the U.S. each year. If you inhale smoke from another person’s cigarettes, your health has been put at risk. I imagine that it is for this reason that the university is now looking into tobacco-free campus options.

While I understand both sides of the argument, I don’t believe Ohio University should become a tobacco-free campus. It is my firm belief that people should be able to smoke on campus, as long as the venue is outside. People should be able to smoke, as long as it is outside, and in a reasonable manner; it’s their body, let them trash it. Tobacco is becoming increasingly popular, with 27 percent of 18 to 24 year olds smoking, and though this isn’t a majority, it is still over one-fourth of traditional college-aged kids. But I must ask, how far does it go? We have made the choice to not allow tobacco-users to smoke in bars, but should they really be made to walk all the way off campus to smoke a cigarette? And what about those students who use other forms of tobacco without bothering or causing harm to other students? As humans, we encounter things that are bad for our bodies every day. We eat foods that aren’t good for us, we drink and often become addicted to sugary and caffeinated drinks, but we only complain when we inhale second hand smoke. Why would we alienate 27 percent of our age group in order for us to trash our bodies openly?

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