Illinois student smokers may soon be forced to snuff out their cigarettes.
Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, introduced the “Smoke Free Campus Act” on Feb. 15, which, if passed, would prohibit smoking on any campus of a state-funded college/university starting July 1, 2014.
The act would also require each state-funded college/university to establish a task force committee to coordinate with campus leaders to implement the act on or before Dec. 31, 2013, according to the proposal.
Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois, called the bill “a different approach.” In the past, the American Lung Association has lobbied for smoke free bars and casinos, but this is different because they’re pushing for smoke-free education facilities, she said.
There are already over 1,100 smoke-free campuses nationwide and many more are looking into the policy, Drea said.
Schools such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Southern Illinois University have already considered smoke-free campuses.
Keenan Kessar, president of Students for a Better Illinois and student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has advocated a campus smoking ban for a couple years and has finally succeeded.
Kessar partnered with a student trustee to put up a referendum and take the issue to the whole campus. Sixty-nine percent of the 10,000 student voters said they wanted to have an open discussion on the issue, he said.
After coming to an agreement Kessar was able to send an official recommendation to Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and she approved the ban to go into effect in November.
But Kessar wants more than just the enforcement of a smoke-free campus, he hopes this results in a cultural change, he said.
“We want to get people to understand and respect that the environment is different now,” Kessar said.
As far as opposition, Kessar foresees only two types: those from a “freedom” standpoint—even if they don’t smoke—and those who actually smoke and don’t want to have a hard time, he said.
But not all smokers are opposed to the possibility of a smoking ban.
Marina Lekovic, a student at Northeastern Illinois University, has been smoking for 10 years but understands why smoke bothers some people.
“Smoke-free environments are safer for non-smokers and they shouldn’t have to inhale smoke because a few of us are smoking,” said Lekovic.
Southern Illinois University Chancellor Rita Cheng has established a committee to explore the possibility of a campus wide smoking ban, reported KFVS-12 news.
The committee is a broad mix of people ranging from staff to students to smokers and non-smokers, said Rod Sievers, university spokesperson for Southern Illinois University.
The committee will deliver an official recommendation to Chancellor Cheng in May, Sievers said.
According to Link’s Smoke Free Campus proposal, “a law that prohibits smoking on the campuses of state supported institutions of higher education will reduce secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmokers as well as prepare students for the workplace and ensure a healthy environment for all campus communities.”
Kessar’s only concern with the Smoke Free Campus Act is the lack of community input it would involve.
“With our process we got everyone’s opinion, and we saw that everyone wanted this,” Kessar said. “A lot of universities will feel that this is forced upon them.”
“But if it’s going to help them, then why not?” Kessar added.
Kessar and Drea are both confident the Smoke Free Campus Act will benefit the community, if passed.
“It’s the way of the future,” Drea said. “We’re seeing parks and beaches and a lot of out door areas become safe, clean and healthy environments for residents and visitors.”