NORMAN — On Wednesday afternoon, Trevor Nelson, a junior at the University of Oklahoma, stubbed out a cigarette and threw it in a trash can before heading to class.
Nelson said he knows about the tobacco ban that will take effect later this year. And he knows exactly what he plans to do about it.
“I will completely ignore the ban,” he said.
During Monday's State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she had signed an executive order placing a ban on tobacco use on all state-owned and state-leased property. That ban takes effect July 1.
Fallin blamed tobacco use as one of several factors that contributed to Oklahoma's poor performance in national health rankings.
America's Health Rankings for 2011 place Oklahoma at No. 48, two spots lower than the previous year's rankings. Only Mississippi and Louisiana fell behind Oklahoma in the rankings, which are released annually by the United Health Foundation. Among other factors, the rankings cite a high prevalence of tobacco use for the low ranking.
During the address, Fallin said improving the overall health of Oklahomans 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.
The executive order came on the heels of the OU Board of Regents' vote to approve a less-strict campus tobacco policy. At its January meeting, the board approved a policy that left two designated smoking areas in parking lots near Dale Hall and the Lloyd Noble Center.
Fallin's executive order supersedes OU's campus policy, and OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said OU President David Boren will ask the board to approve a campus policy that is in line with Fallin's ban.
But Nelson was skeptical about what real impact the ban would have. Before coming to OU, Nelson attended Collin College, near Dallas. That campus had a tobacco ban, he said, but it was largely ignored. Students simply found a quiet corner or secluded area to smoke, he said.
Although he does smoke regularly, Nelson said he tries to be respectful of nonsmokers. He doesn't litter and he doesn't smoke in areas where it might be a problem for someone else. But he said he thinks a smoking ban on all state property is unnecessary.
“I think it's a little silly,” he said.
Kicking the habit
Jeff Parsons, a graduate student at OU, is also a smoker. He said he's been smoking for decades, and has been meaning to quit. He expects he'll have to kick the habit for professional reasons.
Although he plans to abide by it, Parsons said he doesn't support the ban. He thinks the ban will be unenforceable, he said, and he doesn't have respect for rules that can't be enforced.
“I just don't really appreciate the nanny state telling me what I should and should not do,” he said.
Dave Burshik, another smoker, said he supports the ban. He knows he should quit smoking, he said, and thinks the ban could be the incentive he needs to follow through with it, or at least cut back on smoking.
Burshik said he only smokes because it's allowed on campus. He said he doesn't think he will take the time to leave campus for a cigarette once the ban takes effect.
“I think I'll just make it through the day,” he said.
At a glance
Does Fallin's no-smoking order extend to state-owned roads?
Although an executive order banning smoking on state-owned land may technically apply to Oklahoma highways, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said the governor doesn't intend for the ban to be enforced on the road.
Fallin spokesman Aaron Cooper said the executive order was intended to highlight the fact that smoking is a major health concern.
The ban is primarily geared toward areas where state employees are working, including state parks and public universities, Cooper said. He said Fallin hopes visitors to those areas will abide by the policy voluntarily.
It will largely be left up to state agencies to write a ban into their personnel policies, he said.