Smokers can keep puffing away on the University of Akron campus.
The University Council, a policy-making group made up of faculty, students, administrators and other workers, rejected a proposal Tuesday that called for the campus to go tobacco-free.
The vote was 13 to 10 against.
“[Smokers] have rights, too,” said member John LaGuardia, vice president of institutional advancement.
Members also raised questions about enforcement, if such a policy would discourage students from attending the university, smoke breaks, whether the UA community really supports going tobacco-free and how it would impact hardcore smokers.
“I know people I work with who couldn’t go an hour and a half without smoking and they are mean enough as it is,” political science professor Nancy Marion said to laughter.
At UA, smoking is now prohibited inside buildings but is permitted outside on campus at least 25 feet from the entrances of buildings.
Despite the rejection, the proposal will likely resurface and isn’t dead.
Dr. Kristine Kraft, an assistant professor in the School of Allied Health, made the presentation before the group and afterward vowed that she would be back again with another recommendation.
Kraft, who heads the group’s Recreation and Wellness Committee, also said she believes that the campus will eventually become tobacco-free.
Even if approved by University Council, any change in policy would require the support of the university president and board of trustees.
The initial proposal presented to the University Council was much more sweeping than the one voted on.
It called for banning tobacco and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, from all university property. But there was significant discussion and concern about why e-cigarettes were included.
Kraft dropped the nicotine language from her recommendation before the vote, hoping that would mute opposition. But it was still shot down.
Chris Henderson, a graduate student and member of Students Organized for Collective Action, helped conduct a survey of nearly 380 students and found that 78 percent would like to see the campus go smoke-free.
“We’re going to come back and we’re going to see this thing through,” he said after the vote. “This is going to be a fun ride.”
The Ohio Board of Regents had urged the state’s colleges and universities in 2012 to adopt tobacco-free policies.
The Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative estimates that there are 1,477 campuses that are smoke-free, including Ohio State University, Cleveland State University, Malone University and the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Ohio.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.