Students, faculty and staff on Illinois college campuses could lose their right to smoke as an effort to improve the environment and health of the campus communities is currently working its way through the legislature.
The Smoke-Free Campus Act, which is Senate Bill 2202, would ban smoking on all state-supported institutions of higher education beginning July 1, 2014.
The bill was filed Feb. 15 by Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, and passed in the Senate. The bill received its first reading in the House on May 2 and has been assigned to the House Rules Committee.
Universities that would be affected by the bill include Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and Carbondale, the University of Illinois' three campuses, Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governor's State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University and some public community colleges.
The current Illinois law allows smoking outside and at least 15-feet from building entrances. The Smoke-Free Campus Act would allow smoking only in a car not owned by a state-supported institution.
Tim Cassell, of Pearl City, is the parent of an incoming freshman at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. As a smoker trying to quit, he said this ban is a great idea for the campus.
"The farther you have to go (to smoke,) the more likely you're not going to do it," Cassell said. "The more inconvenient it is to smoke, the better it is for everybody, even though they may not want to hear that. In the end, it's better for them."
Cassell said he does not foresee negative consequences to the passing of the bill. For high school graduates deciding between universities, Cassell said this ban would not deter them.
"At that age, I don't think that that's going to be something that they're looking for like, 'Oh, I'm going to this college. Can I smoke here?' I think that that's definitely not a drawback in any way," Cassell said.
Jeff Tate, of Peoria, said, as a nonsmoker and parent of an incoming freshman at SIUE, the smoking ban could be beneficial to the campus, but he is often wary of legislation similar to the Smoke-Free Campus Act.
"The only drawback I see is legislating behavior; that's always a worry of mine," Tate said. "When will they be trying to legislate against something I support, being a nanny state, like New York is trying to be, where you can't get 20 ounce drinks because they think 16 is enough? Those type of rules get ridiculous so I think we have to watch (legislation.)"
Incoming SIUE freshman Taylor Breen, of Joliet, a smoker, said he does not understand why the state would want to ban a legal product.
"You're going to ban me from standing outside and smoking a cigarette when I can go in the store and buy it but then I can't walk where I'm paying to go (to school) and smoke a cigarette? I think that's a little ridiculous," Breen said.
The bill specifies that while any product containing nicotine intended for human consumption is not allowed, if it has been approved for legal sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to aid in quitting or to reduce the harm of smoking, it is permitted.
According to the FDA website, electronic cigarettes have not yet received approval. However, nicotine gum, skin patches, lozenges, oral inhaled products and nasal spray are all FDA-approved and would be allowed on campus if the ban were to take effect.
Breen's mother, Lisa Miller, of Paducah, Ky., is a nurse practitioner who said she would recommend electronic cigarettes to her patients in replacement of cigarettes.
"There's no second-hand smoke (with electronic cigarettes.) It's not hurting anyone else," Miller said. "Why is that such a big deal to people?"
Miller said electronic cigarettes are much safer and waiting for FDA approval is just political.
"They want to regulate it and jack up the price on stuff," Miller said. "The only time the government really cares or wants to regulate, it has to do with politics, bettering themselves or getting more tax money."
Breen said enforcing a campus-wide smoking ban is going to be difficult and there are better ways to go about decreasing second-hand smoke.
"Make smoking-designated areas and then if you get caught smoking outside of there, then get a ticket," Breen said. "There should be smaller steps."
How local senators voted:
* Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Yes
* Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton: Yes
* Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville: No
* Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon: No