No ifs, ands or butts: OU needs to move toward a smoke-free campus

Hopefully soon, the thick, heavy aroma of cigarette smoke that clouds entrances to campus buildings will clear.

In place of it will be clean, fresh air unaffected by the toxins of tobacco passed on to students by the myriad smokers at Oakland University.

The Committee for a Smoke-Free Campus, a group of Oakland employees and students, is working toward making OU completely smoke free.

The group hopes to make the change through an amendment of OU Administrative Policy 475, which currently prohibits smoking in all university buildings and within 50 feet of those facilities

Approximately 20.1 percent of adults age 18-24 smoke, according to a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.

At Oakland, those smokers can be found cluttering the entrances to campus buildings and while walking around. They cluster around the smokestacks during breaks and make it almost impossible to walk into a building without getting a whiff of secondhand smoke.

The current smoking rule is not enforceable, according to OU Police Department Chief Samuel Lucido. We do not blame OUPD for not enforcing this, however. The 50-foot rule was a bad idea from the start, as bins are rarely placed within the required distance and often obstruct access to the handicap buttons for campus buildings. It’s also not stopping anyone — both students and faculty included — from smoking on the patio outside of the Oakland Center and other areas around campus.

Oakland is nationally known as an up-and-coming medical school. With the William Beaumont School of the Medicine and Human Health Building churning out students who are trained to save and improve lives, it is no wonder some would want to make the university as healthy as possible.

If Oakland were to pass a ban, we’d be following the lead of many other universities, including the University of Michigan, where a ban was passed last year, and Macomb and Oakland Community Colleges, who started their bans last week. Students are unable to smoke on campus, but can smoke in parking lots and in their vehicles.

Aside from following the advice of its peers, a campus-wide ban would just be smart. It would benefit every one of Oakland’s 19,740 students who are either harming themselves first hand or exposing others to secondhand smoke.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to the CDC. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes nearly 50,000 deaths every year among young adults in the U.S. — 3,400 annual deaths from lung cancer and 46,000 annual deaths from heart disease, a 2011 report showed.

In May 2010, Michigan became the 38th state to pass a Clean Air Act, which prohibits tobacco usage inside all workplaces and public restaurants.

Though many people were worried the ban would affect restaurant sales, a September study by U-M showed that most restaurants have not reported a negative result in sales from the ban.

If Oakland were to initiate a campus-wide ban, we would be making progress toward a healthier university, not just for our accreditation as a medical school, but for all of our  students as well.

The staff editorial is written weekly by members of The Oakland Post’s editorial  board.