SIU not entirely ‘smoke-free’

“No smoking” signs can be seen posted on doors, windows and buildings throughout campus to remind students and faculty that smoking inside is prohibited.

However, there is often a cigarette receptacle just a few steps away.

As of July 2012, there are 774 smoke-free campuses that permit no smoking on campus at all, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Seventeen of those campuses are in Illinois.

SIU is not one of them.

The university’s smoking policy states the university “prohibits smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes or any other smoking device in all university vehicles, buildings and facilities on the SIUC campus and within 15 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.”

Paul Restivo, director of SIU Center for Environmental Health and Safety, said the intent of SIU’s policy can be found in its principles. The policy states that it is enforced to provide a clean and safe environment to study, work, and learn in.

University employees are responsible for emptying the cigarette receptacles across campus. Brad Dillard, associate director of facilities, said keeping the campus clear of cigarettes is routine. Receptacles are not always emptied every day, he said, but ones that see higher traffic get emptied more often with the garbage route.

However, these receptacles are not always placed 15 feet away from an entrance.

“We put them where it is most conducive to catch ashes and cigarette butts,” Dillard said. “We try to be as discreet as possible, but close enough that people will use them. People are going to smoke where it is convenient to smoke, whether there is an ashtray there or not.”

All Arkansas and Iowa public schools are completely smoke-free by state law. Most Illinois colleges and universities have adopted no-smoking policies over the years and kept them updated with the Illinois state law. Restivo said he thinks the campus policy and state law go hand-in-hand.

“The Smoke Free Illinois Act prohibits smoking inside public buildings, businesses, government vehicles and within 15 feet of building entrances (and) air intake points,” he said. “The SIU Carbondale policy prohibiting smoking inside campus buildings was first adopted in 1987, some 20 years before the state law. Thus, SIU was ahead of the curve.”

SIU’s policy was last amended Nov. 22, 2011, when the name was changed from the “Clean Air Policy” to “Smoking Policy.” This amendment included the clause that prohibits electronic cigarette use. Restivo said the devices were added to the policy because they are also nicotine delivery systems.

With many universities around the country going entirely smoke free, the SIUC Taking Action Against Asthma Committee hopes to create a platform to present to Chancellor Rita Cheng, said Kristin Preihs, a committee member. The new committee would advocate for a smoke-free campus starting with health services buildings such as the Recreation Center and Student Health Center.

“Many universities that have done a smoke-free campus have started with health services and can see how successful it is,” Preihs said. “Long term, it’s for the benefit of our university.”

Enforcement and budgeting are some issues that would need addressed if the university went entirely smoke-free. Preihs said The American Lung Society is willing to provide the necessary funds to assist the university with its smoke-free efforts.

“This ties into our mission statement here at SIU to provide a learning environment that’s healthy for its students,” Preihs said. “We hope that it’s something that is eventual but it is a process, and it takes different amounts of time for different campuses.”

Tobacco use among ages 12-25 has decreased over recent years, but overall numbers are still high, according to the U.S. Surgeon General website. The SIU Wellness Center provides help for students and university community members who hope to quit smoking.

“We don’t want to judge them,” said Michelle McLernon, coordinator of Student Health Services. “We want to help them if they are interested in quitting.”

McLernon said the Great American Smoke-out on Nov. 15 is a popular event to spread the word about smoking cessation across campus. The event inspires smokers to quit for just one day.

The university will also host its second annual Go Cold Turkey Bowl Nov. 14 to promote the smoke-out.

“If they can quit for a day, then maybe that will inspire them to think about quitting permanently,” McLernon said.

Kayli Plotner can be reached at or at 536-3311 ext. 255.

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