DeKALB – With Northern Illinois University gearing up for the Smoke-Free Campus Act that goes into effect July 1, members of the Smoke-Free NIU Task Force and students discussed a draft policy during a community conversation Wednesday night.
After former Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law that bans smoking both indoors and outdoors in all Illinois state-supported higher education institutions last August, NIU created a community task force responsible for carrying out the ban.
Derryl Block, the leader of the task force and dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, said the feedback the task force has received through its website ranges from understanding to outrage.
So far, the draft policy developed by the task force after much discussion and talking to other campuses and institutions prohibits everyone, including faculty and students, from smoking on campus property as well as in any vehicles parked on campus property, Block said.
“This has been one of the key points that our committee has debated,” Block said about smoking in privately owned vehicles. “... There’s a lot of concern about this car draft policy and we will probably be making a decision whether that’s what the policy will be in the next few weeks.”
According to NIU’s website, the policy also will be effective on all campus properties including facilities in Rockford, Naperville, Rockford and the Lorado Taft campus in Oregon.
After Block said there would be a map outlining the premises of NIU where smoking is not allowed, some audience members expressed concern.
Renee Applebey, NIU communications junior, said she would walk across the street to smoke if NIU would not have a designated smoking area on campus.
“I’m here for like five hours a day, and if I go five hours without a cigarette, I’m not going to be very nice,” she said. “And NIU says don’t smoke a cigarette, but that’s not a choice for me. That’s not going to happen.”
Block said the task force hopes to have a policy finalized before May 1. She also said it will take steps to alert more people to the upcoming ban before July 1.
“There’s some plan to have some labeling of outside ashtrays this spring like ‘smoke-free NIU coming July 1’ to notify them and we will gear up the educational portion of this (plan),” Block said.
The draft policy also prohibits the use of other tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars, cigarettes, bidis, kretek and several others, according to NIU’s website. That’s the second most contentious issue after the smoking ban in privately owned vehicles, Block said.
Deborah Haliczer, a member of the task force and assistant vice president of human resource services at NIU, said as the date gets closer the task force will utilize university resources to inform people about the ban.
“Our concern is frequently that not everyone is hearing about it and aware of it and will be shocked out of their wits the day it goes into effect,” she said.
Haliczer said the Smoke-Free NIU Task Force operates within the rules of the law and is trying to create a policy that will work for NIU.
“This task force has been a very difficult task for every one of us who has been on it because the issue is very complicated, people are intense and their opinions are one way or another,” she said. “And so making the right decisions on how we are going to implement the law that we have has been interesting.”
Those who want to send their feedback, can do so on the Smoke-Free NIU page: http://niu.edu/smokefree/comments.shtml