The Daily Illini

Student ambassadors, existing disciplinary measures will be used to enforce upcoming smoking ban

By Megan Jones

University officials plan to enforce the campus’ upcoming smoking ban through education and using existing disciplinary procedures for any breach in campus policy. 

Although police will not be giving tickets and warnings to students, University officials will evaluate whether these measures have been effective after three months.

“The possibility of tickets and fines would be renewed at that point,” said Michele Guerra, director of University’s Wellness Center. “It’s a possibility in the future, but we’re not doing that from the get-go.” 

Renee Romano, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, added that Chancellor Phyllis Wise specifically asked for a re-evaluation after three months because “she wants us to make sure that we are serious about this and enforcing it.” 

The smoke-free campus goal began with a student referendum in 2011, when almost 63 percent of students voted to eliminate smoking on campus. After the vote, it was left up to Wise, who assembled a committee to make recommendations regarding the ban. 

The implementation committee is now at work as they gear up a communication campaign, which will begin in December before students leave campus for winter break, to ensure everyone knows what will be expected of them once the policy is enacted on Jan. 1. 

Around 20 to 50 student ambassadors will be trained as volunteers to approach people smoking on campus and inform them of the policy, give them a smoke-free policy card and direct them to a smoke-free campus map, which details where students can and cannot smoke. 

Although anyone can apply to be an ambassador, Guerra stressed the need for students to not only be able to speak accurately about the policy, but to also have the ability to speak diplomatically.

The University is looking to make a cultural change, and other institutions who have gone through similar procedures told officials it takes about six months to a year for change to occur. 

If someone continually smokes on campus after already being spoken to about the policy, the University will follow the already existing disciplinary measures for breach of any policy on campus. Students would be reported to the Office for Student Conflict Resolution, and employees would be reported to their supervisor or campus’ Human Resources. 

A warning letter would be sent out first, followed by a progressive engagement of consequences, Romano said. 

“I feel confident about our strategy because we did talk to a lot of schools, and we learned from their mistakes,” Romano said. “We may have to adjust, and we may have some bumps in the road, but because of the research that Michele (Guerra) and others have done, we are pretty knowledgeable going into this.” 

Deputy Chief Skip Frost, of the University of Illinois Police Department, added that although the issue at hand is a policy and not a law, the police department will not forgo their role in assisting. 

“We’re going to be active in educating people about the policy, and we will address the behavior when it’s appropriate, but at the same time we’re not going to be the first ones responding when someone has complained about smoking,” Frost said. 

A reporting mechanism, established on the smoke-free campus web site, will allow students and faculty to report violations of the policy and allow ambassadors to respond. A virtual campus map will also be included on the web site, allowing students to see where they can and cannot smoke. 

“There will be folks who, for whatever reason, refuse to go along with the program (and) don’t want to comply with the policy,” Frost said. “For those instances where it elevates itself from just a conversation about the smoke-free campus to heated verbal and possibly physical exchanges and conflicts, then of course the police would be there to mediate that.”

Nicotine replacement therapy will be available for sale at various locations on campus, including the Quad Shop within the Illini Union, the Activities and Recreation Center and the Student Dining and Residential Programs building.

“I used to be a smoker, and when I quit smoking, I used nicotine replacement therapy, so it really helps because … (when) you are withdrawing, you are having physical reactions,” Romano said. “If it’s available on campus, that will help them get through the day without having to deal with the physical withdrawal.” 

During the break, signs will be posted around campus making it evident that the campus is now a smoke-free environment. Students can expect to see signs posted outside of buses and within the interior, brochures with maps, table tents within employee break rooms, campus digital signage and audio advertisements within buses when they return from winter break. 

Last year, the University was awarded a $50,000 “We Choose Health” grant, which is a multi-year Illinois Department of Public Health initiative to encourage the implementation of health programs. The University will receive another grant of a similar amount this year. 

“We will have a healthier environment, and if some of our students and staff decide to quit smoking, people that don’t smoke are generally healthier. They generally lose less days of work and school,” Romano said. “We’ll also have a cleaner campus because we (currently) have a lot of cigarette butts, trash and debris on campus.”

The University’s Chicago campus went tobacco-free in July, and the Springfield campus is currently under consideration to enact similar policies. 

“Students and young people sometimes aren’t yet addicted, so if it is difficult to smoke on campus then perhaps less students will start to smoke,” Romano said. “If we are sending the message that we really don’t want you to smoke here and that it’s going to be difficult, then maybe they won’t start.”

Megan can be reached at [email protected]

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