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College students sound off over new smoking ban

A new law in Illinois will make it illegal to smoke on public colleges and university campuses.
A new law in Illinois will make it illegal to smoke on public colleges and university campuses.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

College students said they are upset over new state legislation Governor Pat Quinn recently signed into law banning smoking on public college campuses.

“It’s bad enough you cannot smoke inside anywhere in Illinois, now the governor wants to keep smokers from away from college too,” said Nate Williams, 20, who transferred to Chicago State University this fall from Marquette University in Milwaukee. “Don’t the governor know college students vote too?”

Senate Bill 2202, sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) and state Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), created the “Smoke Free Campus Act,” which prohibits all smoking on state-supported college and university campuses beginning July 1, 2015.

Gov. Quinn said it was needed to ensure a healthy environment exists on college campuses.

“Illinois’ college students shouldn’t be subject to unwanted cigarette smoke on the campuses they call home,” Quinn said. “We want all schools to be healthy, clean and productive places of learning for Illinois’ bright young minds. This new law will improve the health of our students and encourage healthier lifestyles after college graduation.”

And even state’s top black doctor agreed with Quinn and said second hand smoke, even while outdoors, is dangerous to a person’s health.

“Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death,” said Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Smoke-free campuses make it more difficult for students and staff to smoke, thereby decreasing the number of people who smoke, and reducing the number of people who start.”

But all hope is not lost for smokers because a companion bill Quinn also signed does carve out some exceptions to the new smoking ban.

The law provides an exception for people smoking inside privately owned vehicles traveling through college campus and certain activities allowed under the Federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act. House Bill 3961 allows smoking on campus inside parked, non-state-owned vehicles. And the Smoke Free Campus Act requires each institution to establish a community task force by December 31, 2014 to coordinate the implementation of the act.

Patricia Hawkins, 19, said she has been smoking since she was 15 years old.

“I know I should not be smoking but it is a habit I cannot easily get rid of and making it harder for me to smoke outside only intensifies my desire to smoke more,” said the incoming freshman at Governors State University. “Now I am thinking about transferring to another college where I can smoke outside in between classes. I know a lot of other students who are thinking about it too.”

However, Link disagreed.

“A college education can put people ahead in life, but smoking can do just the opposite,” said Link. “This new law will clear the air on campuses statewide and help produce healthier graduates.”

Colleges and universities affected by the new smoking legislation are Chicago State University, Southern Illinois University, Illinois State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, and any community college subject to the Public Community College Act.

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