Quinn signs campus-wide smoking ban


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Joanna Debska, 26, an accounting major at University of Illinois at Chicago, said she thinks there should be a compromise between the two extremes, such as enforced smoke-free zones.

By Features Editor

College smokers have something new to wheeze about this semester.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Smoke Free Campus Act Aug. 17 to ban smoking on all state-funded public college and university campuses, part of Quinn’s initiative to protect non-smokers from unwanted exposure to secondhand smoke and improve public health in Illinois, according to an Aug. 17 press release from the governor’s office.

“We want all schools to be healthy, clean and productive places of learning for Illinois’ bright young minds,” Quinn said in the press release. “This new law will improve the health of our students and encourage healthier lifestyles after college graduation.”

James Martinez, a spokesman for the American Lung Association, said the law will promote smoking cessation on campuses statewide.

“There’s tons of research that shows that smoke-free policies [lead] to lower smoking prevalence rates,” Martinez said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re excited about this. This is a milestone for Illinois. It took a while for elementary schools and high schools to go smoke-free, but now it’s reached institutions of higher education.”

The ban will take effect July 1, 2015, and will give colleges 10 months to craft their own policies and disciplinary measures in accordance with the law. All institutions are required to assemble a smoke- free task force by Dec. 31, according to the press release.

While some institutions may find the change sudden, Eric Jome, director of media relations at Illinois State University, said the institution saw it coming.

“This is not going to be as big a leap for Illinois State University as it might be for other colleges,” Jome said. “We were kind of moving toward that anyway, and I think there’s a pretty positive sentiment on campus.”

A student-led initiative was implemented at the Southern Illinois University campus in January 2013 to expand no-smoking zones in areas of high student traffic. Jome said the samecommittee that implemented the initiative last year will reconvene to assess what changes need to be made to comply with the new law.

“There are a lot of details [to work out],” Jome said. “We’ve got public streets that come through here, so we will have to look into [that]. [Should there be] special conditions on campus property as opposed to public streets, such as large events in parking lots, like tailgating at football games? There is going to have to be a lot of examination.”

The ALA is hosting a workshop for administrators and student lead- ers to aid campuses in carrying out and designing their own smoke-free policy on Oct. 29 at the Will County Health Department in Joliet.

Michele Guerra, director of the University of Illinois Wellness Center, is speaking at the workshop. Guerra said communication and education was essential to implementing the student-initiated smoke-free policy on the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus when it was introduced eight months ago. This included students who volunteered as “smoke-free ambassadors” to talk to students who were not in compliance with the change.

“We wanted to give people a chance to get used to the policy

and build a culture that supported being smoke-free rather than just enforcing a rule,” Guerra said. “We communicated the reasons why the policy was going into effect [and appealed] to people’s sense of community and educating people about the detriments of outdoor secondhand smoke.”

Jome said he does not think the shift will surprise students and faculty, as the current trend on college campuses has been to implement similar policies.

“We don’t delude ourselves that everyone will be completely happy about it,” Jome said. “But I think, on the whole, people are going to expect this and will cope pretty decently with it.”

Martinez said laws like the Smoke Free Campus Act can create a gradual cultural change even if they do not show effect immediately.

“When they passed the seat belt law, cops were not necessarily pulling over people because they didn’t have their seat belts,” Martinez said. “Sure, it probably happened, but that wasn’t the point. The point was really to educate people that it’s important that you wear your seat belt because these things can happen and here’s why.”