CINCINNATI -- University of Cincinnati is getting serious about banning tobacco.
Beginning May 1, UC will bar all tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes, from being used anywhere on university property -- including inside one's own car.
The prohibition extends to sports fans who attend FC Cincinnati soccer matches, UC football games and high school playoffs at Nippert Stadium. Visitors who light up can be kicked off campus or arrested for criminal trespass.
The old policy was less restrictive, including:
- Allowing smoking outside and at least 25 feet from doors and windows and away from walkways and bridges.
- Providing designated smoking areas
- Allowing smokeless tobacco use
The new policy does away with every exemption except the use of smoking cessation devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; nicotine replacement therapy; UC-sponsored research; and for use protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
A committee of faculty, staff and students worked on the policy since then-President Santa Ono ordered an update last February.
"Hopefully, this will make UC a healthier and cleaner place for everyone," said Liz Aumann, UC benefits director and committee member.
She said UC will ramp up smoking cessation programs to help students, faculty and staff kick the habit.
Gregory Vehr, UC communications and government relations vice president, said the policy is meant to encourage healthy behavior rather than being punitive.
"The point of this is to assist people who want to be healthy," he said.
Tobacco bans spreading
UC joins Northern Kentucky University, Miami University, Thomas More College and Mount Saint Joseph University as completely tobacco-free campuses in Greater Cincinnati.
Xavier University still allows outdoor smoking 15 feet or more from doors and windows and away from covered walkways. Cincinnati State has four designated outdoor smoking areas -- including in front of a smokestack -- and prohibits it elsewhere.
FC Cincinnati, the exceedingly popular first-year soccer club that plays home games at Nippert Stadium, will cooperate to enforce the policy at its games.
“Tobacco-free campuses are becoming a national trend and we are supportive of UC’s initiatives to promote the health and safety of students, staff, faculty and visitors on their campus," FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding said. "We will certainly work closely with university officials and UC Athletics to clearly communicate to our fans the policies and expectations as the information becomes available.”
Ryan Koslen, a UC sports spokesman, said the athletic department would have to evaluate the details of the policy and plans for enforcement before he could comment on whether the tobacco ban would affect ticket sales for football and other popular sports.
"We haven't had time to really discuss any ramifications with anybody yet," he said.
Nicholas Rider, a UC senior who took a smoke break on a campus pavilion Tuesday, said he's glad the policy won't go into effect until after he graduates in December.
"I think they should have some kind of designated smoking areas," he said. "It may encourage people to go off campus and litter in the neighborhoods. The campus will look nicer, I guess."
Rider said he plans to quit smoking after he graduates, prodded along by his girlfriend and his mom.