Recent news reports indicate that OU President David Boren is still considering whether to include a number of designated smoking areas across the Norman campus in lieu of a 100 percent ban on tobacco use. OU has a comprehensive tobacco ban at its Health Science Center and its Tulsa campus.
OU need only look to its neighbor to the north — Oklahoma State University — to learn why such exceptions are unnecessary and subject nonsmokers in the vicinity of these designated smoking areas to potentially dangerous health impacts from secondhand tobacco smoke. OSU enacted a total tobacco ban in 2008, including no discount Cosmos cigarettes, cigars, pipes or smokeless tobacco.
According to OSU’s President Burns Hargis, who considers the ban very successful, numerous studies have shown that employee productivity and health increases without tobacco.
OSU reports that the number of students who identified themselves as nonsmokers has risen from 73.6 percent in 2007 to 80.9 percent by 2010. At OSU, this is good news. There is no known level of safe exposure to highly toxic secondhand tobacco smoke, which has been linked to lung cancer and other serious diseases
OU College of Public Health Dean Gary Raskob is heading a committee advising Boren on possible tobacco policy options. Raskob is the current legislative chair of the Association of Schools of Public Health. In 2009, Raskob co-authored an editorial in the Tulsa World citing a prestigious U.S. Institute of Medicine report, in which Raskob concluded that “substantial and enduring reductions” in tobacco use depend, in part on “bans on smoking in public places.” Several recent scientific studies have concluded that secondhand tobacco smoke can be just as unhealthy outdoors as indoors.
It is time for Raskob and his OU committee to convince Boren of the public health facts they know and teach about tobacco. OU needs to follow the exemplary lead of OSU and a growing list of other universities that have banned tobacco use. OU should reject any designated smoking areas where smokers will be packed together in these smoky, designated smoking areas that will impact the health of nonsmokers.