Campus goes tobacco free this summer

Cigarette ButtsEffective July 1, UIC will become a tobacco-free campus, prohibiting all forms of tobacco: cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.

The new policy will mean a healthier campus, administrators say.

“UIC is committed to creating and maintaining a healthy, productive environment for all its students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors,” Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and vice chancellor for administrative services Mark Donovan said in a March 15 email to the campus community.

The Urbana-Champaign campus will become smoke-free in November.

Administrators consulted with the university president, UIC vice chancellors and deans, campus senate, graduate and undergraduate student government and student organizations before enacting the policy, Donovan said.

“The consensus was that we should move on this, especially because of the fact that we’re a medical campus,” he said.

UIC will launch a public awareness campaign to promote wellness and smoking cessation treatment.

“We’re hoping that people will take the next step and quit smoking,” Donovan said.

Employees and students who want help quitting can contact the Tobacco Treatment Center at the Outpatient Care Center, 312-996-1682, or the Illinois Tobacco Quit Line, 1-866-QUIT-YES.

“My approach is to help patients on an individual basis,” said Tobacco Treatment Center director Lori Wilken, “depending on what they’ve tried in the past, medications that they’re taking or what they have in mind.”

“We find a safe and effective approach to quitting smoking.”

The process of quitting is difficult, Wilken said, but it can be done effectively within a few months.

“Nicotine is known to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine and it can be very challenging for people to quit cold turkey,” she said.

“If somebody is motivated to quit smoking right now, start medication treatment and come up with behavior changes — change up their routine after meals or during breaks — it takes about three months for a behavior change to work.”

UIC’s tobacco-free policy sends a positive message, Wilken said.

“We’re struggling with our patients or visitors who see their nurses or physicians outside smoking and say, ‘Why should I quit smoking when they’re out there?’” she said.

Greg Maddix, a junior in English and a smoker himself, said he wasn’t sure the policy would stop people from smoking.

“I just don’t see how they’re going to enforce that,” he said.

Repeated violations of the policy could lead to discipline of students and progressive discipline of employees, up to termination, according to the policy.

“Hopefully, people will be respectful of it, either through peer pressure or we’ll send the appropriate staff over to remind people of the policy,” Donovan said.

Meagan Kowalski, a sophomore in chemistry and a nonsmoker, said she supports the new policy.

“There’s nothing worse than walking to class and breathing in smoke the whole way,” she said.

– Matt O’Connor contributed to this report.

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