UIS to enact tobacco-free policy

New rules to start July 1 under state law

UIS to enact tobacco-free policy

Starting July 1, UIS will begin enforcing its new policy regarding tobacco use. The policy prohibits the use of any tobacco products on university property, including e-cigarettes, except in privately owned vehicles traveling through or parked on campus. Starting in 2016, even vehicles will be off-limits.

The policy change comes on the heels of the Illinois Smoke-Free Campus Act, which prohibits the use of tobacco products on any “state supported institution of higher learning.”

The title’s reference to smoke may lead one to believe that smokeless products do not apply, but the law covers all products containing nicotine intended for consumption, except those approved by the FDA for medicinal purposes. Furthermore, even carrying these products is technically a violation of the new campus policy.

Beginning in 2016, the use of tobacco in privately owned vehicles on campus, which the law explicitly allows, will be prohibited on campus. Task-force leader and director of human resources Laura Alexander stated, “The main philosophy in the work of the task force was to promote wellness and a healthier campus. The other two U of I sister campuses of UIUC and UIC also go beyond the law in banning smoking (UIUC) or tobacco (UIC) on all campus property, including privately owned vehicles on campus property.”

This decision to expand on the law seems to be against the wishes of a significant portion of the campus community. A survey of 910 faculty, staff and students conducted by the Survey Research Office in December of 203 indicates that only 38.3 percent of respondents would agree with a 100 percent tobacco-free policy. Conversely, 49.6 percent stated they would disagree with such a policy.

It also appears that there was satisfaction with the policy that will remain active until July 1. In response to the statement “The current UIS tobacco policy does enough in terms of limiting smoking and tobacco use on campus,” 47.5 percent of respondents agreed, whereas only 35.4 percent disagreed

When asked about the data, Alexander responded, “Obviously the committee had numerous discussions over time and considered a host of different variables, campus input, data and best practices.”

Former student and current university employee Matthew Roberts disagrees with the policy. “If I’ve got a tobacco pouch in my mouth, it’s not hurting anyone. Which means I have to go off campus. And what’s going to happen if I go off campus, am I going to slip on the ice…if you do this to solve a health problem or a safety issue, you’ve got all of these safety issues that come as a result of it,” said Roberts.

He also complained of what he described as a “lack of transparency” in the decision-making process. The smoking task force had a series of three public discussions in December of 2013.

UIS will be offering tobacco cessation resources to students and employees, and, according to Alexander, this is why the university has decided to wait until 2016 to enact the total tobacco ban.

“The task force chose a phased-in approach in order to provide students and employees with ample time to utilize tobacco-cessation resources,” she explained. UIS will be working with the American Lung Association and will offer one-on-one counseling sessions as well as some free cessation resources. Interested students are encouraged to contact Valerie Gebhardt in the Counseling Center.

Roberts does not see himself using these resources to attempt to quit, however. When asked if he would try quitting due to the policy, he replied, “I don’t see that happening…I don’t know how counseling and all that works, but the products, the gum and the patch, they don’t work that well.”

In a study done by Vanderbilt, after 24 weeks of using a nicotine patch, 8.2 percent of those aware they were receiving a functioning patch were still non-smokers. The counseling center’s cessation resources seem to be more in depth, however, and therapy will be “customized for each individual,” according to Alexander.

Regarding potential punishments for student violation of the policy, Dean of Students Jim Korte explained, “There is nothing in the policy that requires or prescribes a particular consequence to a violation. As such we anticipate that there would be a meeting with the student with the goal of coming to a clear understanding of what occurred and developing an appropriate resolution if a violation has been found.”

Korte believes that oftentimes simply meeting can be a viable consequence to a first-time offender, but added that an “educational activity” might also be necessary.

UIS will likely be enforcing the policy considering how members of the campus community feel currently about the enforcement. In a Dec. 2013 survey, 52 percent felt that the rules were at least “not very enforced,” with 23 percent feeling the policy was not at all enforced.


Check out these links for additional information:

UIS smoking policy effective through June 30th

UIS tobacco free policy-2015

UIS tobacco free policy-2016