Students who attend the public colleges in Illinois could soon be forced to give up cigarettes, at least while they are attending classes on campus. A new bill sponsored by Senator Terry Link seeks to ban smoking on all public college campuses. The bill previously failed in April when it didn’t receive enough votes, but it passed the Illinois senate with a vote of 30-22 on Wednesday.
Senator Link previously sponsored the Smoke-Free Illinois Act in 2008 that banned smoking in restaurants and bars. With the new bill, smoking bans would be enforced at all Illinois public colleges no later than July 1, 2014. Currently, there are only three other states (Arkansas, Iowa, and Kansas) that have bans on smoking on college campuses. Many Illinois colleges have already banned smoking, with the most recent being the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne.
Some raised questions as to whether this bill is really necessary. Senator Dale Righter brought forward several concerns about the proposal, saying “The places this would ban smoking at, those places are governed by a board of trustees that can make decisions like this for themselves.”
Senator Link disagreed, expressing his desire to see the state take the lead. He said, “When we did Smoke-Free Illinois, a lot of people were asking us to do a statewide standard and that’s what we’re doing here so it’s not a patchwork. This way, all state colleges and universities will have the same standard.”
Others expressed concern that the bill would be difficult to enforce. If students are caught smoking on campus, a simple warning would not be sufficient to prevent them from smoking again. So how could a large scale ban on smoking at all Illinois colleges be a realistic action plan to reduce smoking in young people?
There are already 1,129 college campuses that are smoke free, according to Kathy Drea, vice president of the American Lung Association in Illinois. Drea spoke out in support of the new bill, urging senators to stand behind the smoking ban that could protect thousands of students from the dangers of second hand smoke.
According to the American College Health Association, 83 percent of college students report that they do not smoke or have not smoked in the last 30 days. It seems that the way society views smoking is changing and while it was once a normal cultural thing to enjoy a cigarette between classes, today’s students see smoking as taboo.
Only time will tell whether this new bill becomes law, but the decision will ultimately lie with the members of the House. If it does pass, all college campuses in Illinois will have a new smoking ban in place by next summer.