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updated: 4/3/2014 8:10 AM

Bill would ban smoking anywhere on state college campuses

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  • The Illinois House passed a bill to ban smoking anywhere on public college campuses.

      The Illinois House passed a bill to ban smoking anywhere on public college campuses.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer

By Marty Hobe

State lawmakers voted to ban smoking at all public universities, colleges and community colleges Wednesday, but the plan sparked plenty of debate on the House floor.

Smoking indoors has been illegal in Illinois for several years, but the campus proposal would ban smoking of any kind anywhere on campus grounds. Chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes aren't addressed.

"This is in the interest of overall public health to ensure that people are protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke," said state Rep. Ann Williams, a Chicago Democrat.

Opponents of the plan were concerned about stepping on the toes of the schools' boards of trustees.

"When do we put faith in the people that are appointed to these boards to make decisions about their particular institution of higher learning?" said state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican. "I think we have enough things on our plate before we get to micromanage the lives of all members of government and the people that we appoint."

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign banned smoking this year. Both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the College of DuPage banned tobacco two years ago.

Harper College in Palatine is considering the issue.

"At the request of the student government a couple years ago, Harper's Student Life Committee began examining whether to implement a smoking ban on campus," said Ashley Knight, dean of student affairs. Knight said the idea continues to be considered as officials watch what might happen in Springfield in the meantime.

On Wednesday, the House approved the measure by a 67-44 vote.

A similar ban was approved by the Illinois Senate last year, led by state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat. But it will have to be approved again by the Senate because of changes the House added.

Private schools are exempt from the proposed ban, and it doesn't include punishments for offenders. Williams said enforcement would be up to the schools.

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