NIU smoking policy comparatively lenient

By Jennifer McCabe

Several universities across Illinois are strengthening their non-smoking policies, but NIU is not among them.

Schools such as Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University have banned smoking across their campuses and are strictly enforcing the policy.

The new policy states there will be no smoking in buildings, except in designated rooms in the dormitories, no smoking in any university vehicle or any seated outdoor areas.

The smoking policy at NIU is not as strict as ISU or SIU policies, but there are still only a few places one can smoke on campus. At NIU, smoking has been banned in all buildings except for designated areas and select rooms in the residence halls.

The campus buildings are not required to have designated smoking areas, but some do have their own policies for smoking procedures, said Patricia Hewitt, associate vice president of business and operations.

“The people need to smoke outside. The right of the non-smoker prevails. The no-smoking policy runs after people,” she said.

Hewitt said NIU’s policy is adequate and does not need to be strengthened.

The no-smoking policy that went into effect on July 3 at ISU, not only banned smoking across campus, but changed the way the policy is enforced.

At ISU there is strict enforcement for all smoking faculty and students. If faculty and staff continue to smoke and violate smoking policies after a warning, they will be brought before the Ethics and Grievance Committee. All students will be brought before the Student Judicial Office.

NIU’s enforcement is not as strict. Smoking in non-designated areas is treated like any other personnel problem, Hewitt said. However, NIU does offer to send their employees to workshops to quit smoking.

Michael Haines, the coordinater of NIU’s Health Enhancement Services, said NIU students are more health conscious now than in the past.

“NIU students are below the projection for smokers for the year 2000. College students are healthier than non-college peers,” he said.

Haines said only 10 percent of NIU students smoke on a daily basis, and the national college average is 14 percent. He said there is a big gap between the group of smokers that smoke every day and the smokers that indulge only on social occasions.

Haines said tobacco has an interesting effect. “Tobacco, inhaled or chewed, is a mild relaxant (on muscles) and a stimulant (for the brain). It is also very addictive, in any form,” he said.

The biggest problem related to smoking is its ability to impair the lungs and the blood carrying oxygen to the cells. “It is also associated with the formation of cancer cells. Whether it causes cancer or encourages growth of cells that have already formed is not yet determined,” Haines said.

Ilene Harned, the project coordinator for ISU/Community FREE and one of the members who revised the old smoking policy, said the students and faculty at ISU are also more health conscious.

“We haven’t had a lot of complaints (about the new policy), mostly just questions about limitations for the students,” she said.

ISU is looking to improve the health of their faculty, staff, and student body, Harned said. “There are more and more places that are health conscious, so there was not a lot of conflict. There were a few letters in the school newspaper, but they mostly want clarification on the policy,” she said.

Harned said the policy will be brought up for review in a few years to determine if it is working, and whether it should be revised again.

She also said smoke-free campuses are not new. There are a number of campuses across the state and the country who have been that way for years, including some “Big 10” schools.