Frequently Asked Questions
Question: When did the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign become smoke-free?
The smoke-free campus policy went into effect January 1, 2014.
Question: Why did our campus go smoke-free?
By eliminating second-hand smoke, the Urbana campus underscores its commitment to providing a healthy learning environment for students and a healthy work environment for faculty and staff.
Establishing a smoke-free campus policy:
- Protects people from unwanted and involuntary exposure to tobacco and passive smoke. Multiple studies affirm that there are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke, including outdoor smoke.
- Promotes cessation and creates a supportive environment for those who are trying to reduce or quit tobacco use.
- Creates a cleaner living, learning, and working environment. Cigarette butts are the most common type of litter. Reducing cigarette butt litter will beautify our campus and lower clean-up costs.
- Protects the environment from tobacco–related litter. Discarded cigarette butts contain all the carcinogens and nicotine that make tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, yet trillions of butts are littered into the environment annually. Cigarette butts take years to decompose, increasing the toxicity of aquatic ecosystems, and potentially leaching into soil and the water supply. Cigarette butts are also dangerous when consumed by wildlife, pets, or young children.
The campus’ new policy supports and builds upon the state’s Smoke Free Illinois Act (410 ILCS 82/), which is already in effect throughout the Champaign-Urbana area, including campus. The American College Health Association has also advocated that all colleges and universities attain a 100 percent tobacco-free environment. As of April 2013, more than 1100 college campuses across the country have enacted 100 percent smoke-free or tobacco-free policies, with the trend steadily increasing for the past few years.
Question: What process was involved in making this decision?
- In November 2011, a question about becoming a smoke-free campus was included in the annual student referendum: approximately 70 percent of students who voted urged the campus to explore the possibility of becoming smoke-free environment.
- This result led to further discussions about next steps between students and representatives from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Students Affairs. After several meetings, the Smoke-Free Ad Hoc Committee was formed by Chancellor Wise in January, 2012. This campus-wide committee intentionally included representation from campus administration, faculty, academic professionals and civil service staff, as well as graduate and undergraduate students.
- A random stratified survey of ten percent of students, faculty and staff was conducted in April, 2012. The purpose of the survey was to gather information and examine attitudes about tobacco use on campus to help the Task Force with its work.
- In the summer of 2012, after detailed review of the current campus policy, best practices of other comparable campuses, the survey results, data from relevant health agencies, and other related information, the committee wrote and submitted a report to Chancellor Wise. The report outlined three options: 1) establish a tobacco-free campus policy; 2) establish a smoke-free campus policy; 3) retain the current smoking policy. The committee recommended the campus adopt option two – establish a smoke-free campus policy.
- The Chancellor reviewed the report and selected option two – adopting a smoke-free campus policy.
Question: Did you consider the needs and perspectives of all different groups on campus?
The campus was very interested in having all groups represented in the implementation process, and in providing mechanisms for people to voice their ideas and concerns. The original Smoke-Free Ad Hoc Committee who wrote the recommendation to the chancellor was composed of a diverse group of people representing many campus constituencies.
During fall and spring semesters, meetings were held with many campus organizations; including different official university committees and groups, organizations involving various colleges, and registered student organizations. These meetings 1) informed members of the campus community about how the decision to become smoke-free occurred, 2) provided information about the implementation process; and 3) elicited input to help make the process as gentle as possible.
Four working subcommittees planned the implementation of the policy. Each of these subcommittees has a faculty-staff and a student co-chair. Each subcommittee has about 15 members, representing faculty staff, students and community organizations.
In the fall, a focus group with smokers guided us in how to help smokers through the transition.
Question: Isn't tobacco-use a personal right?
Tobacco use is a legal product for adults. The campus is not asking anyone to quit. However, the university owns campus property, and can establish policies that protect the health of all campus members. A smoke-free policy does not prohibit tobacco use; it merely establishes where use can occur.
The new policy supports the right of all people on the campus to breathe smoke-free air. The simple reason for our policy is respect for each other and the environment. We hope that smokers who choose to continue smoking will respect our smoke-free environment out of concern for their fellow campus community members.
Question: Is secondhand smoke really that much of a problem?
Secondhand smoke, also called involuntary smoking or passive smoking, is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes:
- Smoke from burning tobacco
- Smoke that has been exhaled by people smoking
- More than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic, and about 70 that can cause cancer.
Secondhand tobacco smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Closer to home, an estimated 2,900 Illinois citizens die each year from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control:
- In adults who have never smoked, secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and/or lung cancer (exposure increases risk from 20 – 30 percent).
- There is no risk-free level of contact with secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.
The 2006 Surgeon General's report found that even brief exposures to secondhand smoke may have adverse effects on the heart and respiratory systems and increase the severity of asthma attacks, especially in children.
Recent research indicates that people inhaling smoke at an outdoor café or other outside venue can breathe in wisps of smoke that are many times more concentrated than normal background air pollution levels.
Aside from the risk to the general campus community, secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous for people with cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD and certain allergies, older adults, pregnant women, and children. The campus houses several laboratory daycares and schools, as well as hosting a myriad of summer camps.
Our campus community believes that secondhand smoke is a problem on campus. The following are results from the April 2012 survey:
- 86 percent of students and employees believe secondhand smoke is a health hazard.
- 71 percent of students and 49 percent of employees say they are exposed to secondhand smoke on the campus.
- 66 percent of students and 69 percent of employees say littering of tobacco materials (e.g. cigarette butts) is a problem on the campus.
Question: Does Illinois’ smoke-free campus policy extend to other campus-owned property outside of the main campus?
The policy includes all campus-owned property, except Willard Airport. The smoke-free campus map shows the boundaries of campus property.
Question: Can people smoke in their own vehicles within the smoke-free campus? What about in university vehicles?
Smoking in private vehicles parked on campus property is banned under the new policy. This means people cannot smoke in their cars while parked on campus owned streets or in campus parking lots or garages.
Smoking in university vehicles has been prohibited for several years, and remains so under the new policy.
Question: How will people know where they can and cannot smoke?
All campus-owned property is smoke-free. Signs are posted on campus. An online smoke-free campus map identifies the boundaries of the campus.
Question: Will there be designated smoking areas on campus?
No. Smoking is prohibited on all campus grounds. Establishing designated smoking areas undermines the new policy. The purpose of the policy is to create a health-supporting community. Smoking zones and perimeter policies have not been found to be effective or enforceable. Smoking shelters are expensive to construct and maintain. Campuses with full smoke-free policies have reported fewer problems with compliance than policies that include smoking areas.
Question: What about football games, concerts or other public events?
All events occurring on campus-owned property are covered by the smoke-free policy. The smoke-free committees are exploring how to best communicate this to those attending public events on the campus.
Question: Will I be fired if I don’t quit smoking?
You will not be fired for being a smoker, but all employees, students and visitors are expected to comply with the policy by not smoking on campus property. Repeated policy violations of any kind, could result in termination. If you are interested in quitting, the campus provides plenty of resources to help you quit. If you need help managing nicotine withdrawal symptoms to get through the day you may purchase Nicotine Replacement Therapy products at several campus locations (shown on the smoke-free campus map). You may also contact the Wellness Center for assistance.
Question: How is the policy enforced?
The policy is being enforced through education and existing disciplinary procedures:
- The campus launched a communication campaign about the specifics of the policy in the fall. The campus continues to educate about the policy through flyers, handouts, informational events, notices in campus publications, and signs around campus.
- A smoke-free campus map is posted on the smoke-free campus website. This map helps people know how to leave campus if they wish to smoke. It also helps building managers, supervisors, resident directors and others help people comply with the policy.
- Smoke-free ambassadors: A team of volunteer smoke-free ambassadors will talk with people smoking on campus. If you are interested in serving as a smoke-free campus ambassador contact Michele Guerra at email@example.com.
Existing disciplinary measures: In cases of repeated and purposeful noncompliance, the existing disciplinary measures will be followed:
- Students will be referred to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution
- Employees will be referred to their supervisor or campus Human Resources.
Reporting mechanism: People can report noncompliance using the report forms on the smoke-free campus website. Noncompliance can be reported in two ways:
- By location. You can report that smoking is occurring at a specific location anonymously;
- By individual. You may report a specific individual who is smoking. To do so, you must identify yourself.
Question: What is the campus doing for students and employees who want to quit using tobacco products?
The campus has expanded their tobacco cessation options for students and employees. Students can contact McKinley Health Center for details on the cessation options. The UI Wellness Center coordinates cessation resources for employees. For a detailed list of cessation resources go to the tobacco-free toolkit.
Question: Some people may have a hard time getting through the day without smoking. What is the campus doing to help them?
The campus has set up locations where people can purchase Nicotine Replacement Therapy such as nicotine gum or lozenges. These locations include Illini Union, Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), Campus Recreation Center East (CRCE), the Ice Arena, State Farm Center, and some residence halls. The locations are shown on the smoke-free campus map. For additional help contact the UI Wellness Center.
Question: Can I use e-cigarettes?
E-cigarettes may not be used on campus property. The smoke-free campus subcommittees explored this extensively. They decided to ban them for the following reasons:
- E-cigarettes emit a vapor that contains tobacco byproducts. It is widely believed that this vapor is dangerous; the extent of the risk is unknown at this time. Preliminary analyses on e-cigarettes have found that the cartridges contain diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze that is toxic to humans, and carcinogens, including nitrosamines.
- E-cigarettes are a relatively new, and extremely unregulated technology. They are not approved by the FDA as a cessation device – although the-cigarette industry heavily markets them as such. There is little scientific research on them; therefore, the risks of usage are unknown at this point. Several severe accidents regarding use of cigarettes have been reported (e.g. poisoning of young children, exploding cartridges). Consumers have no way of knowing:
- whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use;
- how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are inhaled during use;
- whether they are effective as quit-smoking aids;
- whether they can deliver enough nicotine to satisfy withdrawal effects;
- what the effect of secondhand vapor from e-cigarettes is;
- whether the use of e-cigarettes encourages smokers who might have otherwise quit to continue smoking and only use e-cigarettes when they are in no-smoking environments; and
- Whether youth may use e-cigarettes as an introduction to smoking regular cigarettes.
- Most public health agencies discourage the use of e-cigarettes including:
- American Heart Association
- American Lung Association
- US Food and Drug Administration
- World Health Association
- American College Health Association
- Cancer Action Network
- Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
These agencies advise smokers who wish to quit or reduce tobacco use to employ FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies or medications, in conjunction with behaviorally-based cessation techniques.
The tobacco industry heavily markets e-cigarettes as a cessation device although they have not been approved by the FDA for this purpose. Allowing them in our policy may lead many smokers to turn to e-cigarettes as a cessation device, possibly unknowingly harming their health.
Question: I have ideas or concerns. Who should I contact?
Three are two ways to provide feedback:
- Submit your thoughts via the feedback section of the smoke-free campus website. If you would like an answer, please provide your name and email address. If you prefer to keep your communication confidential, simply send your comment without identifying yourself.
- Submit ideas or express concerns to Michele Guerra, Director of the UI Wellness Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In both cases, questions and feedback will be forwarded to the appropriate smoke-free committee if it cannot be answered directly by the UI Wellness Center.
Question: I am interested in helping with smoke-free efforts on campus. Who should I contact?
Contact Michele Guerra, Director of the UI Wellness Center at email@example.com.