Improvements needed for on-campus smoking bans

The secondhand smoking haze continues to dissipate over the state of Illinois.

Last Thursday, in a mass email, Chancellor Phyllis Wise announced upcoming changes to the current campus smoking ban in line with the passage of the Smoke-Free Campus Act. Under that Act, all state public institutions of higher education will go smoke-free by July 1. And while Wise did not go into depth as to how the policy on this campus will change, the health of individuals both here and around the state stand to benefit.

With all state institutions soon to be on even footing, it will be much easier for Illinois students, staff and faculty to avoid the harms of secondhand smoke while carrying out their daily activities.

This campus, smoke-free since the start of 2014, has had a head start on mitigating the ill effects of environmental tobacco smoke, but there is still much that can — and hopefully will — be done as the University revises its policy.

Areas such as enforcement, penalties and providing information could all be improved.

Under the current policy, the University has no obligation to account for the efficacy or enforcement of the ban. Regular monitoring could ensure the smoking ban is having its intended effect, and if not, could provide the University with the information necessary to address problems to make the ban more successful. It could also keep the public aware about the successes of the ban.

Creating more substantial penalty mechanisms could further deter potential violators. Presently, violators are referred to the appropriate disciplinary body, or, in the case of guests, can be asked to leave University property. Under the Smoke-Free Campus Act, Universities are given the discretion to impose, among other regulations, “disciplinary action” and “fines.” The looming threat of something along the lines of a smoking ticket could be used to make people think twice about lighting up on campus.

Making information about the ban more accessible to individuals of all backgrounds will also help. For example, consider persons with non-English backgrounds; the University welcomes visitors from all over the world every single day, keeping all guests informed of the purpose and logic behind the smoking ban could prevent violations of the policy due to problems related to language barriers and create greater compliance.

Continuing to provide resources for individuals interested in quitting smoking is also of vital importance. The cost of providing such resources, especially when done at no cost, may be somewhat of a burden, but in the long term, such offerings can go a long way to ensuring a healthier community.

The soon-to-be statewide campus smoking ban is an effective way of ensuring people who want to smoke cigarettes can do so on off-campus areas, safeguarding people on-campus from harmful second-hand smoke. Being a campus that has had experience with these rules for more than a year, we know the changes that are necessary to ensure complete success of an on-campus smoking ban, and hopefully these are changes that the new rules will usher in.