Photo illustration: Smoking on campus

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: OU still has a problem with cigarettes on game days despite being a tobacco-free Campus since 2012.

Since OU became a tobacco-free campus in 2012, OUPD has recorded 178 calls or contacts about tobacco, 41 of which resulted in written warnings or citations, OUPD spokesperson Maj. Bruce Chan said. 

Chan said these numbers do not take into account incidents that resulted in multiple citations or incidents where officers encountered an incident and dealt with it without calling in to dispatch, so the actual number of tobacco violations is likely higher.

In 2010, an Oklahoma law against smoking in public places and inside workplaces went into effect. The law banned tobacco use in public and required buildings to have separate ventilation systems if owners decided to include a smoking section.

Two years later, OU became a smoke-free campus. However, on game days, smoking becomes especially common, with many people smoking in the tailgating section or in front of the stadium.

Kristopher Davis, assistant manager at the OU IT store, said that while smoking in the tailgate section doesn't bother most people, smoking in front of the stadium does, and it cannot be avoided. 

“It’s one thing to be in your area, but when you’re surrounded by thousands of people who are trying to get to the same place, it felt a little disrespectful to the people and the campus,” Davis said.

Facilities management is already forced to go to extra lengths to clean up after a football game, and disposing of cigarette butts makes it more difficult. Management sets out extra trash and recycle bins, adding over 400 in the tailgate area, said Brian Ellis, director of Facilities Management. 

When the no-smoking policy came into effect, the university put up signs in the tailgate area and around campus to make visitors aware of the policy, Ellis said.

“We didn’t do that this year, but I think we’re going to start that again,” Ellis said. “If we do this we can remind visitors OU is a tobacco-free campus, and that’s an important thing to us.”

During the homecoming game, signs were placed around campus reminding individuals to not smoke on OU's campus.

Any large event, especially football games, takes about a thousand people to clean up the whole campus, with a group of four people cleaning the area outside the stadium, Ellis said.

The crew usually works through Saturday night to have the campus back together by Sunday morning, although sometimes some supplementary cleaning is required on Sundays, Ellis said.

OUPD has noticed an increase of tobacco waste around campus after football games and plans to begin heavier reinforcement of OU’s policy.

“During game days, we conduct enforcement of the tobacco-free policy established by the university and will increase those efforts,” Chan said. “That includes warnings for first time offenders and citations for repeat offenders.”

There has been a drastic decrease in the amount of waste around campus since the policy was established, and it will hopefully become even less of a problem, Ellis said.

“These things take time for people to change their habits,” Ellis said. “I think the decrease is a sign things are changing and will continue with enough time.”

Emily Sharp is a freshman journalism major at the University of Oklahoma who works as the Life and Arts editor for The Daily.

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