University's plan to be smoke-free questioned

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 22, 2014 at 9:50 a.m.

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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Southern Illinois University's Edwardsville campus is to be smoke-free in a year, but some students — even a few who don't light up — don't think that's fair.

Student body president Nasir Almasri doesn't use tobacco products but believes the state's recent Smoke-Free Campus Act, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015, wrongly doesn't account for the way his campus is laid out, the Belleville News-Democrat ( ) reported.

Almasri said some smokers at other colleges may simply walk across a street to get off campus, but he says that's not possible at the 2,600-acre SIU campus.

His organization surveyed students, held open forums and listened to ideas, and Almasri said they heard feedback — from smokers and non-smokers alike — that smoking areas would be more appropriate and reasonable than an all-out ban.

"The bigger issue, in my opinion, is students who live on campus and staff who work all day," Almasri said. "You can't really walk off the campus. You have to get in a car, drive five to seven minutes off campus. ... You could be gone for 20 to 30 minutes for a cigarette. Especially for the staff, it just isn't feasible."

University spokesman Doug McIlhagga said SIU-Edwardsville would comply with the new law, which first requires an implementation committee to be formed by next January.

University system president Randy Dunn said he met with Almasri in May and heard the requests for designated smoking areas on the large campus.

"I did not disagree with his thinking," Dunn said. "However, as you know, (the legislation) has passed, and that statutory language is clear that only two exceptions are provided for a campus" — smoking is allowed in private vehicles parked on the campus or traveling through it.

Almasri, who hopes others will join him in lobbying state legislators to amend the law before it takes effect, also questioned how the ban would be enforced.

"Unless the state plans on paying someone to go around and ticket offenders, I don't think the school has the resources for it," Almasri said. "The students are going to ignore it and smoke anyway.

"From the state's perspective, I'm sure it sounds like a great idea, but we don't see the feasibility of it."


Information from: Belleville News-Democrat,

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