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September 12, 2013

CSU adopts 'passive enforcement' to keep campus tobacco free

By Travis Raymond

For years to come, the Cleveland State University community will look back at fall 2013 as more than just another routine semester. We are in the middle of making a little bit of history, because this fall marks the beginning of the university’s new campuswide tobacco free policy.

The university’s record number of freshmen will be able to tell their grandchildren all about it, but students expecting to see sweeping changes as they walk around campus will be disappointed. Since the progressive new policy went into effect, the only significant change appears to be approximately 80 yard signs scattered across the campus that say, “CSU is tobacco free,” in the official Vikings’ colors of green and white.

The signs were purchased with a grant from the Ohio Department of Health and are only the first wave of a major campaign. By the end of the month, students and faculty can expect similar signs and banners adorning entranceways all over campus.

Despite the new policy and eye-catching signs, students have noticed that Cleveland State is not even close to tobacco free. Smokers can be seen outside any building on campus at any time of day.

According to Gerry Modjeski, director of Employee Benefits and Wellness, smokers will be around campus for a while, but that is all part of the plan.

“We don’t expect immediate compliance – that is unrealistic,” Modjeski said. “There is an expected change in culture on campus to become a tobacco free campus through consistent and ongoing events, reminders, communications and cessation opportunities for all faculty, staff and students.”

Modjeski described the university’s method of enforcement of “passive enforcement.” The goal of the new policy is for full voluntary compliance and no law enforcement or security personnel will issue citations or tickets for smoking.

Instead, members of the campus community are being asked to help enforce the policy should they see someone using tobacco on campus grounds by reminding the smoker of CSU’s policy on tobacco in a friendly, nonconfrontational manner.

“Compliance is expected to come about through our culture change over a period of time,” Modjeski said. “Maybe that is idealistic, but the best practices that we have studied across the country have taken that type of attack.”

This laissez faire approach to enforcement has cost the policy some support among the student body.

Paula, a senior and double major in English and education, said she initially welcomed the new policy.

“I was pretty happy because I thought it would help me quit smoking, but I see people smoking anyway,” Paula said. “It’s not so much a policy as a suggestion, and I think it’s a waste of money if they’re not going to enforce it.”

Smokers across campus expressed general disappointment in the university’s decision and low expectations for the new policy.

Annie, a health science major, was surprised that a commuter school such as CSU would ban tobacco.

“I haven’t seen anyone enforce the policy, and I don’t know how they will enforce it against something like smokeless tobacco,” Annie said. As for her own smoking habit: “unless someone tells me to stop, I’m not going to stop.”

Matt, a freshman, found the new policy surprising and counterintuitive.

“I get that they want the perception of the university to be healthy and welcoming,” Matt said. “But when you ban smoking, you’re making it unwelcome.”

Kirk, majoring in health sciences, said he heard nothing of the policy as an incoming freshman and expects no lasting effect.

“Smokers are going to smoke whether anyone says something or not,” Kirk said. “The money they are spending on it could be put to use towards the students’ education.”

In addition to being passively enforced, CSU’s tobacco free campus policy has an inherent loop hole based solely on the university’s location. While the campus dominates entire blocks of downtown Cleveland, it is intersected by what the policy calls “pedestrian thoroughfares,” which include roads and sidewalks.

“Those are public city streets and public city sidewalks that we do not control,” Modjeski said. “Employees and students who choose to smoke on the sidewalk on Euclid Avenue, that is their choice. We would hope that they wouldn’t out of respect for others, but we have no control.”

So as the signs say, CSU is tobacco free. But as the university’s policy explains, its sidewalks are fair game save for those areas maintained exclusively by the university. To date, the policy identifies only six such areas, including Euclid Commons and the Student Center, but indicates that more could be added if needed.

Nevertheless, smokers will continue to smoke on campus for the foreseeable future, but with the university’s anti-tobacco campaign just beginning, they can expect to be kindly asked to stop should they venture from the sidewalk. Tobacco free culture is coming.