Tobacco-free UC

Students aren’t convinced that the Tobacco Free UC ban on tobacco will make much of a difference. (Photo Illustration)

It was May 1, 2017, when the University of Cincinnati’s “Tobacco Free UC” policy went into effect. At the time, it was praised as a changing moment for the university.

Almost two years have passed, and very little has changed.

Students casually use Juuls in classrooms and outside their dorms without a care in the world. Yet “Tobacco Free UC” explicitly restricts e-cigarettes, which “cannot be used on UC property,” according to policy.

It’s not hard to find cigarette butts on this beautiful campus. It’s almost as if “Tobacco Free UC” never happened at all.

Why are people still using cigarettes and e-cigarettes on campus? Perhaps it’s because UC doesn’t actually enforce the policy.

As early as August 2017, consequences for breaking policy were unclear. In an article published by The News Record, Juan Guardia, dean of students, said it was unclear how the policy would be enforced. An email from “Tobacco Free UC” to a former student said its goal was “to educate and inform the university,” rather than prioritize discipline.

Yet the policy itself claims that violators will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. In a 2017 statement, the university said students who are caught smoking on campus will be punished “under the student of conduct.” This threat, however, is extremely vague.

It remains unclear how students will be disciplined for breaking policy. Do students who smoke on campus run the risk of being fined? Warned? Suspended? Expelled? It’s hard to take the rules seriously when the university fails to outline the consequences.

UC should specify the consequences for breaking its “Tobacco Free UC” policy. For example, if you are caught smoking a tobacco product on campus for the first time, you will be warned and be forced to throw away your product. If you are caught again, you may be subject to a fine. If you are caught for a third time, you could face a one-week suspension.

Specifying the consequences will not only give students a clearer view of what the guidelines are, but it will aid the UC staff that enforces the guidelines as well. Do you really think UC staff enjoy taking students aside and lecturing them on why they shouldn’t smoke?

Personally, I don’t care whether UC has a tobacco-free campus or not. What I do care about is that the university has an unclear, generic policy about tobacco use that doesn’t motivate the student body to follow the rules. What reason do students have to take UC’s policies seriously? I don’t use tobacco products, but students who do should have clear guidelines to do so.

Overall, all students should know whether UC intends to follow its policies — and if the university doesn’t plan to do so, it should publicly say so.