The freedom to smoke on campus soon will be snuffed out.
On July 1, Carbondale’s campus will join all Illinois public universities in going smoke-free. The statewide ban is the result of former Gov. Pat Quinn signing the Smoke Free Campus Act into law last year.
The current policy allows smoking 15 feet from the door of a building, while the new law will allow smoking only while inside personal vehicles.
Interim Dean of Students Katherine Sermersheim said SIU’s smoke-free policy is under final review but will be similar to the Illinois law. She said the university’s policy will also ban electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.
In an interview last year, Ted Grace, director of SIU Student Health Services, said more than 17 percent of students are smokers.
Sermersheim said the university will be flexible and will inform students in advance that smoking is no longer allowed.
“While there is a natural adjustment period, I think most people will get there on their own and we’re not going to be talking about a lot of enforcement or penalty,” she said
Sermersheim said students who repeatedly violate the ban will be subject to penalty under the Student Conduct Code, but no sanctions have been specified. For faculty and staff, supervisors or Human Resources will handle the discipline process.
For guests visiting the university, the Department of Public Safety will have the authority to issue smoking citations. Sermersheim said the specifics for citations are still being defined.
She said the new policy will have few exceptions and will allow smoking on campus for research or cultural programs, but approval from the university will be required.
John Massie, assistant director of SIU Student Health Services, said his department supports the new law.
“A smoke-free campus is a healthier campus,” Massie said. “Even if you’re not a smoker, secondhand smoke has consequences as well, so I think not having smoking on campus is a positive thing.”
Since 1964, about 2.5 million nonsmokers have died nationwide from health problems caused by secondhand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Massie said it is important for smokers to know there are resources if they want to quit, such as the Illinois Tobacco Quitline, a hotline featuring tobacco-treatment counselors. The number for the hotline is 1-866-784-8937.
Laws have shaped health behavior in the past and if smoking becomes more difficult, people may be less likely to continue, Massie said.
For smokers like Clinton Jones, the ban will be a significant change.
“I feel like there are quite a few smokers here on campus and this will affect a lot of them,” said Jones, a freshman from Pana studying electrical and computer engineering. “Some people can’t go most of the day without a cigarette.”
Colin Martin, a nonsmoker, said less smoking will make the campus a more healthy and beautiful place, but he is not sure how well the university will enforce the ban.
“A lot of my close friends smoke and I know they’re affected by it,” said Martin, a sophomore from DeKalb studying geography and environmental resources. “They’ve already said that they’ll probably ignore the ban.”
Chad Hall, a senior from Decatur studying criminal justice, said the ban would be more acceptable if the university would designate areas for people like him to continue smoking on campus.
“They can take it off campus, that’s fine, but they still need to allow some place for smokers to go,” Hall said.
Sermersheim said the smoking ban is just the next step in improving the atmosphere on campus.
“This is a natural progression — an evolution process if you will,” she said.
Shawn Bowen can be reached at [email protected]