Smoking is social, says Harper College student Ian Craig, a way to meet friends in between classes.
The Hoffman Estates native is confined to certain slivers of the Palatine campus where he can light up a cigarette and chat with classmates. Starting Jan. 1, that radius will close altogether. On Wednesday, the community college adopted a sweeping ban on smoking.
Smoking ban timelineMcHenry County College: Since fall 2011College of DuPage: Since fall 2012University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Since Jan. 1, 2014College of Lake County: Jan. 1, 2015Harper College: Jan. 1, 2015Elgin Community College:
The College of Lake County also will go smoke-free six months before Illinois' public colleges and universities are required to.
Students, employees and casual visitors won't be allowed to smoke, indoors or outdoors, when the state law goes into effect July 1. There are some exceptions in the law: Smoking is permitted inside privately owned cars traveling or parked on campus.
The Illinois Smoke-Free Campus Act is silent on how to enforce the ban but does require schools to create a task force by the end of December.
Officials say the ban applies to electronic cigarettes, too. While the law doesn't explicitly mention the battery-powered device, it applies to products containing or delivering nicotine, unless approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for medical purposes. E-cigarettes, which produce vapor from liquid nicotine and other chemicals, have not been approved by the FDA.
For now, both Harper and CLC are politely urging smokers of both electronic cigarettes and the conventional kind to snuff out voluntarily.
"We're not trying to be antagonistic to people," said Janet Mason, the chair of CLC's human services and social work department. "We really want them to comply with the policy and to understand that this is for the health and safety of the community."
Supporters often tout health benefits, but administrators say campuswide bans also could help faculty and staff quit smoking and lower health insurance costs. Officials also are connecting students to resources that help them kick the habit, making them more attractive to employers who hire only nonsmokers. And suburban colleges are providing services that help students and employees manage cravings.
CLC today will kick off "Breathe Easy at CLC" at its Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan campuses. Organizers will hand out free quit kits for those who sign a "One-Day Commit to Quit" form, plus other perks.
In the spring semester, Lake County Health Department counselors or CLC specialists will lead smoking cessation sessions. And the college's health center could add free or reduced-cost nicotine replacement therapies. "We're not telling people they have to quit, but we want to offer support to people who do," Mason said.
As of early October, 437 colleges and universities nationwide had gone 100 percent tobacco-free, according to the American Lung Association. Eight in Illinois made the list, including College of DuPage and McHenry County College.
At COD, smokers on the Glen Ellyn campus face a $15 fine under a 2-year-old ban. From fall 2012 through this September, 744 citations, 185 written warnings and 263 oral warnings were issued, according to spokesman Joseph Moore.
The goal isn't punitive, but to create a "healthy environment," Moore wrote in an email.
"The fines have been reasonably effective," Moore wrote. "However, we do have to educate a new group of students every semester."
Elgin and Oakton community colleges have not decided whether to stick smokers with penalties. Elgin's ban goes live in March, Oakton's in July.
Harper surveyed other schools that write tickets and found "it's just not that effective," said Ashley Knight, dean of student affairs.
Instead, officials ask anyone who spots smokers to have a "respectful, nonjudgmental" dialogue encouraging them to put out cigarettes, Knight said. Harper plans to post online tips with conversation starters. Over winter break, crews also plan to install signs at campus entrances alerting visitors to the rules. Campus police, though, won't be actively seeking out smokers.
"We really don't have a police force set up to be the smoking police," Knight said. "We are really just asking everyone on the campus to do their best to talk to people about the policy."