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Pete Wuscher was out protesting Ohio University's smoking ban Thursday in the Hocking River.

Athens man protests OU's smoking ban by standing in Hocking River

Wuscher says the ban "grinds against democracy."

In the midday sun, Pete Wuscher stood alone Thursday on a sandbar in the Hocking River.

The 50-year-old Athens resident held a lit Pall Mall between two fingers. Around his neck hung a sign that read, ”OK to smoke here?”

Wuscher was protesting Ohio University’s recent campus-wide smoking ban, a rule that he feels “grinds against” democracy.

“I certainly don’t advocate for smoking, but I feel it ought to be an individual choice,” Wuscher said. “I don’t think the university would collapse if every once in a while, a non-smoker got out of the way for a smoker.”

The self-proclaimed “hopeless smoker” said his demonstration was motivated by a sort of marginalization of smokers that has occurred in recent years through limits on where one can smoke.

“Is this lonely peninsula of sand, is this the new environment of smoking?” Wuscher said. “Where are those of us hopeless smokers and those who choose to smoke going to end up?”

Wuscher doesn’t attend classes at OU, but said he is dependent on the bus system in Athens for transportation. So he often spends time waiting for a bus outside Baker Center and would like to be able to smoke before a long ride.

Wuscher emphasized that he thinks encouraging people to live healthier lives is a good thing, but he doesn’t think an organization’s ideals should be forcibly imposed on the public.


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