The Ohio State University–Smoke-Free Residence Halls
Public university located in Columbus, Ohio
Enrollment: Approximately 50,000 students
Fraternity/sorority membership: Approximately
Gender breakdown: Male: 52%, Female: 48%
Racial breakdown: Caucasian: 86%, Hispanic/Latino:
2%, African American: 7%, Asian American: 5%, American Indian
or Alaskan Native: <1%
Policy/Program Description: In September
2000, The Ohio State University (OSU) implemented a smoke-free
policy for all residence halls. Background.
The policy was spurred by health concerns about smoking and
environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), as well as problems with
roommate matching, roommate conflict, smoke damage, fire safety,
and vandalism. Strategy for Action.
Administrators consulted other benchmark schools, OSU students,
and relevant campus groups while drafting the policy. Students
were largely supportive of a 100% smoke-free living environment.
has been little resistance to the smoking ban. None of the
fears expressed about flight from student housing or stigmatization
of smokers materialized. Future Plans.
OSU housing staff are encouraging students to develop appropriate
perimeter policies for residence halls.
By the late 1990s, residence halls were the only campus buildings
at The Ohio State University (OSU) where smoking was still
permitted. In addition to health concerns, numerous smoking-related
housing problems spurred OSU Housing staff to take action.
(1) Matching smoking roommates and roommate conflict related
to smoking was a key concern. (2) Smoking-related damage to
student housing, fires in trashcans and other containers from
cigarettes not properly extinguished, and false fire alarms
were costing the school money. (3) Non-smoking students expressed
concern about smoke traveling through building ventilation
into their rooms.
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Strategy for Action:
Consulting Benchmark Schools. In
the summer of 1999, the OSU Housing staff sent an email survey
to their benchmark schools to ask about their residence hall
smoking policies and to solicit advice about the best way
to introduce this policy. OSU considered phasing in the smoking
policy dorm-by-dorm, instead of introducing a blanket policy
to make all residence halls smoke-free simultaneously. However,
most benchmark schools advised that a one-time 100% smoke-free
policy works better than a phased-in approach. Thus, OSU decided
that if the smoke-free policy were to be introduced, it would
happen all at once.
Consulting Students. Since a policy
change would affect students’ living environment, OSU
Housing staff consulted students about the potential ban on
smoking. They first approached the Residence Hall Student
Government. Half of the council fully supported the ban, one
quarter had a few reservations, and one quarter completely
opposed the ban. Opponents cited smokers’ rights and
stigmatizing smokers as main concerns. In response to these
concerns, OSU Housing staff held a campus-wide forum to gather
input from interested students. When only 19 students showed
up to discuss the issue, Housing staff concluded that this
was not issue for OSU students and decided to move ahead on
Consulting Campus Staff. OSU Housing
staff gathered input from other campus groups to assure that
a policy change would be a coordinated effort. Residential
Advisors (RAs) and other staff that lived in residence halls
supported the policy change, but expressed concerns about
enforcement. Housing staff also alerted the custodial and
facilities staff to the policy proposal, and updated them
on developments throughout the process. Finally, Admissions
provided valuable input and effectively communicated the smoke-free
policy change to prospective students.
Changing Policy. With the support
of the majority of students and staff, as well as advocacy
from the Student Wellness Center, the Director of Housing
implemented the smoke-free residence hall policy in fall 2000.
While the Director of Housing had the authority to act single-handedly,
consulting with students and staff assured greater cooperation
with the policy change. Updated OSU publications reflected
the policy change, and receptacles were placed outside of
all dorms in preparation for increased outdoor smoking.
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The ban has been generally well-received on campus. Violations
are rare. In the two years after the ban took effect, only
5-6% of all residence hall violations were smoking-related,
suggesting student acceptance of the ban. While some students
had threatened to move off-campus due to the policy, there
has been no decline in demand for on-campus housing. Fears
about the stigmatization of smokers have not materialized.
In fact, some residence halls have since organized “smokers
meetings” so that students who smoke may meet one another
and socialize. The number of false fire alarms in the residence
halls has dropped an estimated 15-20% since the ban took effect,
saving both OSU and the Columbus Fire Department valuable
time and money.
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An unresolved issue is the distance from residence halls within
which smoking is prohibited. The new policy did not stipulate
a smoke-free perimeter around campus buildings. Instead, this
decision was left up to individual residence halls. To date,
Hall Councils have taken little action. Housing staff is encouraging
students to take ownership of this issue, as complaints about
walking through smoke in order to enter residence halls persist.
Ohio State University’s Smoke-Free Residence
Smoking and the Use of Tobacco Products
- Smoking is not permitted in the residence halls. This
includes, but is not limited to, the following: student
rooms, hallways, doorways, elevators, dining commons, reception
areas, lobbies, lounges, restrooms, stairwells, loading
docks, trash rooms, or computer areas.
- Residents are permitted to smoke outside in public areas
that do not inconvenience or disturb other residents.
For more information, contact:
Assistant Director of Residential Life
This case study was written in June 2004.
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