Smoke-free campus Student Ambassadors to receive training

By Jessica Ramos

Change is still underway after the University became a smoke-free campus on Jan. 1, as the University’s Wellness Center will train the first round of smoke-free student ambassadors on Friday. 

The student ambassadors will learn about the details regarding the ban including available resources and how to enforce the policy in a diplomatic manner, said Michele Guerra, director of the Wellness Center.

Students interested in becoming ambassadors must go through a hiring process for the unpaid volunteer position. If chosen, they will be responsible for promoting the policy; however, Guerra said everyone should participate. 

“Everybody should feel empowered to let (smokers) know that this is a smoke-free campus,” she said.

There are nicotine replacement therapy stations provided by the Illinois Tobacco Quitline throughout the campus to help those who want to quit.

“There are a lot of support mechanisms provided for students,” Guerra said.

Additionally, the smoke-free campus website includes a campus map that shows smoke-free boundaries and the location of eight different nicotine replacement stations that have been set up since Jan. 1.

University administration is not the only party that has adopted this policy in the Urbana-Champaign community, either. 

Mike Doyle, executive director at the University YMCA, said they adopted a similar policy in an effort to be consistent with the University’s code.

The decision came about after discussion last fall regarding what the impact would be to the YMCA after the campus went smoke-free.

It is still too early to say that a lot has changed since the campus went smoke-free, Guerra said. The University’s goal right now is to get the word out.

Announcements are made during events to let attendees know that they are not allowed to smoke. The rule is now also incorporated in rental agreements for renting University property.

Nathan Mei, junior in ACES, said despite the ban, he still has seen community members smoking. He believes the non-compliance is due to students not receiving a punishment for their actions.

“They smoke because they don’t care,” Mei said. “I don’t think it’s possible for them not to know the campus is smoke-free with all the signs and constant reminders. If they were fined, I think it would be different.”

Although the University student code has not yet been amended, students are still obligated to follow all University student codes and policies, said Renée Romano, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

Guerra and Romano both said they are using experiences gathered from other Universities that have implemented similar policies to guide them here at the University. 

“What we’re trying to do is change a culture — not just enforce a rule,” Guerra said.

Following spring break, temporary signs will be posted near the most non-compliant areas reminding members of the campus community of the smoke-free campus policy, Guerra said.

When considering what the future holds for the University’s smoke-free policy, Mei believes new students should be well-educated and informed.

“I think there should be explicit information provided to new students educating them about the smoke-free policy,” he said. “If new students aren’t educated then the hard work from the University will go unnoticed.”

Jessica can be reached at [email protected]