The Norman Transcript


November 11, 2011

Residents voice support for tobacco ban on OU campus

NORMAN — A number of people Thursday at the Oklahoma Memorial Union voiced their full support of a tobacco ban on the University of Oklahoma’s Norman campus.

Others said restricting tobacco use is OK if there are designated smoking areas around the campus, so as not to restrict the rights of smokers.

But no one who spoke at the public discussion expressed outrage over the prospect of a tougher tobacco policy on the Norman campus.

One student lamented, “Why is this (ban) taking so long; I wish it was coming faster.”

Conversely, OU law student RJ Harris said a blanket prohibition of a “lawful activity and a legal substance” limits the rights of citizens, though he sees no problem with narrower restrictions that address specific goals, such as curbing second-hand smoke and reducing litter.

OU President David Boren earlier this fall said that he wants a tobacco ban for the Norman campus by January. A number of colleges and universities have smoking or complete tobacco bans already, including the OU Health Sciences Center and Oklahoma State University.

The OU Board of Regents would have to give final approval, but Boren formed a committee to research and recommend the best ways to implement a ban.

The committee organized the informal discussion Thursday at Beaird Lounge inside the Oklahoma Memorial Union to gather public input.

Gary Raskob, dean of OU’s College of Public Health at the Health Sciences Center, led the discussion.

“We’re trying to approach this in a thoughtful way, not judgmental of any behavior, but from the perspective of health,” Raskob said.

The dean said both of his parents smoked, including a mother who died of lung cancer when Raskob was 19, and a wife who used to smoke.

With that history, Raskob said, “I understand the personal side of this, but we want to approach this from an objective, sensitive way.”

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