Officials at Oberlin College are considering banning tobacco products, but what that means for the rest of the town remains to be seen.
The issue was first raised at last Monday’s city council meeting, when council president Ronnie Rimbert voiced concerns that a campus tobacco ban would mean hundreds of OC students taking smoke breaks on public property.
Busier and smellier sidewalks may not even be the biggest concern for many Oberlinians, though, as there has been no indication on what penalties would be given to people caught smoking on college property.
Since the college owns about half of the town’s property, including Tappan Square and the Oberlin Inn complex, a smoking ban would have a major impact on “townies.”
Moreover, the college is notorious for placing people who violate its policies on a no-trespass list, which subjects them to arrest if they are seen again on college property.
Students caught smoking would be sent to educational programs, said OC associate dean of wellness and health promotion Lori Morgan Flood.
But she said she didn’t know what kind of penalties would be given to non-students, which is a huge issue since smoking rates among the general population are higher than among college students, according to Flood.
She said the proposal is still in the works and that it’s too early to determine whether the ban would extend to all college property and whether non students could be penalized too.
Student senator Machmud Makhmudov, a proponent of the ban, declined to comment on how the ban may affect townies.
The News-Tribune also asked city manager Eric Norenberg if college officials discussed penalties with him, and he said they had not.
Flood said the college is organizing a meeting between designers of the tobacco ban proposal and the city people who may be affected.
She didn’t give a firm date for the meeting, but said that it will be sometime in November.