“We’re just trying to get some student input, because I know it’s something that’s going to be addressed. I think the faculty just really wants to know how the students feel about it,” SGA President Halea Hatten said. “Some people are really for the ban. They think it should be in place. Then other people who do smoke in the dorms, of course they’re against it. It’s kind of mixed feelings.”
She said the comments heard at the meeting would be presented to the university to use when deciding whether or not to ban smoking in the college dorms. Currently, students can smoke in their dorms only if they have permission from their roomates. Students advocating in favor of the ban argued that smoke lingers and wafts into other areas of the building where it offends non-smokers.
“In my Campus View bathroom, it smells like I smoke a pack a day in there, and no one in our room smokes and no one on the first floor smokes in our apartment,” SGA Vice President Brooke Miller said.
The arguments presented by both sides can be summarized as rights versus inconvenience: the rights of either the smoker or the non-smoker versus the inconvenience of either tolerating the smoke or stepping outside to enjoy a cigarette.
One idea presented was the creation of a smoking-only dorm building, but opponents argued it could create lost housing revenue for the university by only being able to put students in one place over another. Members of SGA also argued the long-term contamination of carpet, walls and furniture, and the difficulty of finding residency advisors who would be willing to live in smoking-only facilities.
Issues of possible safety hazards also were presented. Those in favor of the ban say it presents a fire hazard, while those opposing it say it’s actually less-hazardous and produces fewer fires than cooking. One SGA member countered that argument claiming that because many more people cook in their dorms than smoke, it’s understandable that there would be more cooking related fires and is completely irrelevant to the argument.
Matthew Kilmer suggested the university build gazebos for smokers, to keep them out of dorm buildings but also keep them safe from bad weather. When the SGA asked Kilmer who would pay to construct these gazebos, he suggested, “Why not take it out of (SSU President) Rita Morris’ paycheck?”
Kilmer also wrote a letter to the editor, published in the Feb. 9 issue of the University Chronicle — a editorial-independent student newspaper on the SSU campus.
“If non-smokers have a problem with second-hand smoke, then they should deal with it through rational discourse with smokers. Indeed, smokers should show more concern for the health of the people around them. The way this problem should not be handled is through the overbearing reliance on a recognized authority,” Kilmer wrote.
Student Alex Sulo also argued against the ban at the meeting, suggesting instead the university do a better job enforcing its current smoking policies.
At the close of the meeting, the SGA distributed surveys asking students such questions as “Do you smoke?”, “Can you live with a smoker?”, “Do you agree with banning smoking in Campus Housing, and why or why not?” and “If you smoke, how could (SSU) accommodate you smoking outside the residence halls?”
Miller said SSU is one of the last remaining universities in Ohio to allow smoking in student housing. She said schools like Ohio University, Wright State University, Marietta College, Hocking College, The Ohio State University and others already ban smoking.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.