NORMAN — In the six months since a campuswide smoking ban took effect at the University of Oklahoma, no one has been fined for smoking on campus.
OU's campus tobacco policy took effect in July. Since then, OU officials haven't issued a single citation for smoking on campus. OU spokesman Michael Nash said the policy also has led to a “noticeable decrease” in the amount of cigarette butts and other tobacco-related trash on campus.
Although the university hasn't fined anyone for smoking on campus, OU has issued 13 warnings related to the tobacco ban.
OU's campus tobacco ban went into effect in July after Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order prohibiting tobacco use on state property. Fallin announced the measure during the 2012 State of the State address.
During the address, Fallin said improving the overall health of state residents is an economic imperative.
“Healthy living is important, not just because we want Oklahomans to live full and happy lives, but because the effects of unhealthy life choices hurt our economy, drain taxpayer dollars and drive up the cost of health care for everyone,” she said.
Fallin also blamed tobacco use as one of the factors that led to the state's poor performance in national health rankings.
In 2012, Oklahoma ranked 43rd in America's Health Rankings, an annual report by the United Health Foundation. In the category of smoking, Oklahoma ranked 47th in the country, with just over 26 percent of its adult population smoking on a regular basis. Only Arkansas, West Virginia and Kentucky ranked lower in that category.
Fallin's executive order came on the heels of an OU Board of Regents vote to approve a campus tobacco policy that was less strict than the one Fallin put forth. At a meeting in January 2012, the board approved a policy that left two designated smoking areas in parking lots near Dale Hall and the Lloyd Noble Center.
At the time, OU President David Boren said he supported including the two designated smoking areas because an outright campus ban would likely lead smokers to cross busy streets to smoke just off campus.
Boren said he was concerned that would create safety issues and litter in areas where smokers congregated.
Fallin's executive order, which didn't allow for designated smoking areas, superseded the previous OU policy. OU officials later adopted a policy that complied with the executive order.
Allison Douglas, an OU senior, said she's noticed a difference on campus since the ban took effect — but perhaps not the kind of change OU officials had in mind.
In the past, Douglas said, she saw people on campus smoking in the open. While walking down the sidewalk, she would often find herself walking behind a smoker, which meant she was walking in a cloud of cigarette smoke.
That doesn't happen anymore, she said. Instead of smoking in the open, smokers tend to duck into corners where they won't be noticed, she said.
“I still see people smoking,” she said.
Douglas isn't a smoker, and she said she supports the smoking ban. Having people smoke in the open on campus used to bother her, she said. Even if the ban has only moved the smokers to more secluded parts of campus, she said, it's helpful.
Douglas thinks the ban reflects the wishes of most people on campus. She also thinks it's likely good for campus health, she said — if it discourages people from smoking, that's a good thing.
“I think it's a good idea,” she said.