August 29, 2014

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Oberlin College considers move to tobacco-free campus

Hadas Binyamini, a senior history major from Sunnyvale, Calif., smokes Thursday on the Oberlin College campus. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE.

Hadas Binyamini, a senior history major from Sunnyvale, Calif., smokes Thursday on the Oberlin College campus. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE.

OBERLIN — Oberlin College is considering a move to a tobacco-free campus, but the proposal is still in the early stages, according to Lori Morgan Flood.

Flood, associate dean and director of wellness and health promotion for the college’s Office of Wellness, called the proposal the Tobacco-Free Initiative.

She said the office is meeting with community leaders, neighbors and stakeholders to determine whether a tobacco-free campus is feasible and how it could be implemented.

The college’s current policy, adopted in 1993, allows for smoking in outdoor areas that are at least 30 feet away from building entrances and exits. Smoking is prohibited in all campus buildings and campus-owned vehicles, according to the policy.

A tobacco-free campus could ban all forms of tobacco on campus property.

The Tobacco-Free Initiative comes after a move to smoke-free campuses across the U.S. from various colleges and universities. As of July 8, there were 1,177 smoke-free campuses, of which 792 were tobacco-free, according to the National Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative.

In 2012, the Ohio Board of Regents voted unanimously to recommend that Ohio colleges and universities ban tobacco products campus-wide.

Cleveland State University moved to a tobacco-free campus this year, banning the use of any form of tobacco on campus. The previous policy only prohibited smoking within 20 feet of any CSU facility entrance.

Flood said the specifics of such a policy at Oberlin College haven’t been ironed out, nor has a decision been made to implement one. She said an ad hoc tobacco subcommittee of the Office of Wellness began working on the proposal three years ago.

The subcommittee has the support of the Lorain County General Health District, according to Flood.

“We’re just at the beginning of the process. … We’re gauging campus readiness,” she said.

Flood said such a policy has taken 18 months to 3½ years to implement at other college campuses.

City Manager Eric Norenberg said the city is not involved in the initiative, but he said city officials plan to meet with college officials to ensure there are no “negative effects on the community” as smokers could be pushed to smoke on city property or near local businesses.

“We don’t want a situation where the neighbors are adversely affected by this,” he said. “We all need to work together so that smokers and non-smokers can get along and follow regulations.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.