Smoke-Free CampusSmoke-Free Campus

University of Illinois

Coming January 1, 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How is Illinois' policy regarding tobacco changing?

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officially announced its intention to become a smoke-free campus on October 18, 2012. This means smoking will no longer be allowed anywhere on campus when the policy goes into effect January 1, 2014.

Question: When will the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign become smoke-free?

The smoke-free campus policy will take effect January 1, 2014.

Question: Why is our campus going smoke-free?

By eliminating second-hand smoke, the Urbana campus is underscoring 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 will:

  • Protect 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.
  • Promote cessation and create a supportive environment for those who are trying to reduce or quit tobacco use.
  • Create 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.
  • Protect 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 will support and build 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: Are you considering the needs and perspectives of all different groups on campus?

The campus is 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.

This fall, focus groups with smokers will guide 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?

Yes, the policy encompasses all campus-owned property.

Question: Will people be able to smoke in their own vehicles within the smoke-free campus? What about in university vehicles?

Smoking in private vehicles parked on campus property will be banned under the new policy. This means people will not be able to 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 will remain so under the new policy.

Question: How will people know where they can and cannot smoke?

All campus owned property will be smoke-free. The smoke-free subcommittees are determining how to best communicate the specific boundaries to faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Signage and maps are possibilities. We expect that details will be available by mid fall.

Question: Will there be designated smoking areas on campus?

No. Smoking will be prohibited on all campus grounds. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Establishing designated smoking areas undermines the new policy. The purpose of the policy is to create a health-supporting community for everyone, tobacco-users and non-users alike. Creating smoking areas does not contribute to that purpose.
  2. Smoking zones and perimeter policies have not been found to be effective or enforceable, and 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 will be 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 will have to comply 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 will provide plenty of resources to help you quit.

Question: How will the policy be enforced?

One of the working committees will be determining the best way to enforce the smoke-free policy in a way that is based on mutual respect and builds a smoke-free culture on campus. As an institution of higher education, education will be instrumental to implementing this policy. Details about the compliance strategy will be available by mid fall.

Question: What is the campus doing for students and employees who want to quit using tobacco products?

The campus is exploring how to develop a comprehensive tobacco cessation program which will include several options for faculty, staff, and students who wish to quit smoking or using tobacco. The campus is dedicated to helping members of the Urbana campus community quit smoking and eliminate tobacco use. We expect to roll out new cessation programs by mid fall.

In the meantime, we recommend that campus employees and students who wish to quit use the Illinois Quitline. This program combines telephones counseling with trained tobacco cessation professionals and Nicotine replacement therapy. The program is free and can be customized to meet each client’s needs. Sessions are scheduled at your convenience. A translation service for up to 200 languages is also available.

Learn more about the Quitline or sign up online.

Additional cessation resources can be found on the tobacco-free toolkit.

Question: How will you help people who don’t want to quit smoking get through the day?

The campus understands that addictive nature of smoking and the reality that breaking the habit is extremely difficult for many people. The subcommittees are exploring way to help smokers who do not wish to quit manage withdrawal symptoms while they are on campus. Details on this will be available fall semester.

Question: Will people be able to use e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes will not be allowed once the smoke-free campus policy goes into effect. 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 believed that this vapor is dangerous; the extent of the risk is unknown at this time.
  • 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.
  • Because e-cigarettes look like traditional cigarettes, allowing them can create confusion for people responsible for enforcement.

Question: How will the policy be communicated to the campus?

The Communications and Culture subcommittee is developing a communications program. Some informational meetings and information tables have already occurred. You will see and hear much more about the smoke-free policy in August.

In the meantime, the smoke-free campus website (http://go.illinois.edu/smokefree) is the campus’ online portal for information on the smoke-free process, resources, and communication. Some of the things you can find on the site include:

  • FAQs
  • Tobacco-Free Toolkit (resources for those that want to quit)
  • Registration for the Illinois Tobacco Quitline
  • Announcements & upcoming events
  • Feedback mechanism
  • More

Question: I have ideas or concerns. Who should l I contact?

Three are two ways to provide feedback:

  1. 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.
  2. Submit ideas or express concerns to Michele Guerra, Director of the UI Wellness Center at mguerra@illinois.edu.

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 mguerra@illinois.edu.