Baker Report: A smoke-free NIU

Smoke-Free NIUA 1992 memo from cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris found that smokers working in places that prohibit smoking smoke 11-15 percent less than average and quit at a rate that is 84 percent higher than average. State lawmakers and health officials hope the Illinois Smoke-Free Campus Act, signed into law in 2014, will have a similar effect.

On Wednesday, public colleges and universities across the state of Illinois, including Northern Illinois University, will become smoke-free campuses in compliance with the law.

Beginning July 1, smoking is prohibited in all areas of campus. This includes all indoor and outdoor areas owned and leased by the university, including but not limited to all buildings and facilities on the main campus and other satellite locations, open spaces, stadiums and parking lots, with the exception of inside private vehicles passing through campus.

The prohibition includes using and/or carrying any kind of lighted smoking materials. Examples include any kind of pipe, cigar, cigarette, cigarillo, bidi, kretek, hookah, atomizer, vaporizer, marijuana, weed, herb and electronic cigarette.

At this time, smoking in a personal vehicle parked in an open-air parking lot on campus is not considered a violation of the policy.

The law affects many across the university community–students, faculty, staff, contractors and their subcontractors and employees, spectators, alumni and other visitors to campus. All events hosted by NIU and outside groups on campus, including athletics events, will be smoke-free. Change is not always easy, but this initiative reinforces our commitment to preserving and improving the health and comfort of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.

Research shows that smoking is the top cause of avoidable death in the United States, and by establishing a smoke-free environment, we can reduce exposure to carcinogens and asthma triggers. It is our hope that this law will also reduce or eliminate the litter caused by improper disposal of cigarette butts and allow facilities staff to focus their efforts on other areas of campus. To help with this transition, all ash urns will be removed throughout campus in the coming days and weeks.

I understand that this will not be an easy transition for everyone. Please know that for those of you who desire to quit smoking or to refrain from other tobacco use, NIU will provide significant support through ongoing communication about cessation programs and other resources.

Thank you to the Smoke-Free Task Force members, led by College of Health and Human Sciences dean Derryl Block, for their work in balancing public health and compliance with state law with personal freedom and responsibility in developing university policy in this regard.

Our commitment to being a smoke-free campus is a responsibility we all share together, whether you’re a smoker or not. I ask that you review NIU’s smoke-free policy, which was approved after input from diverse stakeholders from the campus and community, and take the time to learn more about the initiative as well as programs and resources available to you by visiting niu.edu/smokefree.

I know members of the NIU community will exercise the level of respect and collegiality that will see us through to a successful transition.

Forward Together,

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