Smoking is no longer welcome on Illinois State University’s Quad and other prime real estate on campus.
Although falling short of a full campus ban on smoking, the long-awaited restrictions on smoking outside went into effect Monday. Other high-traffic areas where smoking is now prohibited include the Milner Library Plaza, the State Farm Hall of Business Courtyard, the DeGarmo Hall forecourt, the Schroeder Hall Plaza, and the College Avenue pedestrian bridge.
“It will be nice not to have someone blowing smoke into my face on the way to class,” freshman Kristin Fitzsimons said.
Smoking has long been banned inside all campus buildings, including residence halls, and within 15 feet of building entrances, exits, and windows.
The latest changes come by popular demand from a student body that voted 66-34 percent (with 2,359 votes cast) for further smoking restrictions in a March 2011 referendum. That vote was held in response to student surveys conducted in 2008 and 2009 that showed many students supported further smoking restrictions, according to a story in the online student newspaper J-News.
The Student Government Association proposed the changes, which were approved by the Academic Senate. Among the concerns addressed by the new restrictions were that students with lung illnesses can be adversely affected by secondhand smoke and that students shouldn’t have to deal with smoke on the way to class. It was also a move to clean up campus, where a quick scan shows that sidewalks have become the final resting place for hundreds of cigarette butts.
“Personally, I’m a vocal major,” senior Emma Roseland said. “I appreciate (the new restrictions) a lot.”
Roseland said she wouldn’t want a complete campus smoking ban: “I just don’t want it in my face.”
Not all students had gotten the message by Monday: A few students could be seen smoking on the Quad and the Milner Library Plaza. The University plans to post signs around campus about the expanded policy and to place smoking receptacles in smoking permitted spots.
Senior Kevin Wilson derided complaints of secondary smoke outside as “hogwash.” He and other smokers asked, Why couldn’t a nonsmoker move over just a couple of feet to avoid the smoke?
Senior Alex Polino said he was against the changes, which would force him to change a favorite habit.
“I enjoy smoking on the way to class,” Polino said. But “it was not a catastrophe,” he added.
Junior Jack Campbell said the new restrictions could anger students if University Police started handing out tickets. The University, however, plans to apply a softer touch.
“We expect that compliance will be through peer pressure and courtesy and in the spirit of making the campus healthier and cleaner,” said College of Business Professor Farzaneh Fazel, a member of the smoking policy implementation team.
Things could be worse for campus smokers. At least 1,130 colleges and universities have banned all smoking on campus, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the only state school in Illinois that is completely smoke-free.
Student Body President Andy Manno said there was discussion about a campuswide ban, but it was decided to allow students the freedom to smoke in certain areas.
“Most of the feedback I have received has been positive,” he said.
The University has taken an incremental approach to restricting smoking. In 1993, then University President Thomas Wallace banned smoking in and near campus buildings. One exception was residential housing. A ban there did not come until 2001, which was prior to a statewide mandate, University Housing Services Director Maureen Blair said.
Before the residential hall ban, students were able to choose whether they wanted to live in a smoking or nonsmoking hall.
“The number of students requesting smoking spaces was kind of dwindling,” Blair said.
Some students who perceived they were being stripped of their rights were unhappy with the change for a few years, according to Blair. One challenge that persists is where to place ashtrays so that smokers will use them without violating the 15-foot rule and “so it doesn’t look trashy near the buildings,” she said.
When Blair arrived on campus in the late 1980s, smoking was still allowed in break rooms and in offices.
“There was kind of a decreasing openness,” she said.
There was a time, just a few decades ago, when the Quad was home to a mini-Woodstock, known as the Rites of Spring, where cigarette smoking would have been considered one of the more innocent vices on display.
Wilson misses those days—but for different reasons.
“I wish we could go back to the 70s when we could smoke inside,” said Wilson as he smoked Monday in 20-degree temperatures. “It’s freezing.”
BY THE NUMBERS
These findings from the National College Health Assessment survey reveal the self-reported cigarette smoking habits for randomly selected Illinois State University students during the course of the last decade:
Kevin Bersett can be reached at email@example.com.