SPRINGFIELD -- A suburban lawmaker's proposal to ban smoking on Illinois college campuses moved one step closer to becoming law after being narrowly approved 7-5 in a Senate committee Tuesday.
The measure, proposed by state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, would ban smoking from all public universities and community college campuses but would leave decisions on how violators would be punished up to the individual institutions.
Link said it's important to ban smoking on college campuses because of how many young people start smoking in college.
"Maybe what we'll do is help prevent people from ever starting," Link said.
Much of the committee's debate surrounded the question of why the state should act on the issue at all because public universities already have the power to ban smoking on their campuses if they so choose.
"This encroaches on the ability of the university to make decisions on our own," Katie Anselment, a spokeswoman for Eastern Illinois University, told the committee. "We feel like it is a decision we should make on our own."
Eastern was the only university to oppose the proposal.
Kathy Drea, director of the American Lung Association in Illinois, spoke in support of Link's measure, saying another reason to ban smoking on campuses is because of the litter.
"Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world," Drea said. "Someone has to clean all that up."
The voting went along party lines with the exception of Democratic Sen. John Sullivan, of Quincy, who sided with the committee's four Republicans in opposition to the bill.