Parkland campus goes smoke free

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer01_smokingban

A new law implemented at Parkland College July 1 points towards a cleaner, healthier campus for students, faculty and visitors.

Parkland enacted a no smoking law on July 1, officially becoming a smoke-free campus. However, how the policy will be enforced is still up in the air. The college will spend the next 12 months educating the public about the new policy. During that time the structure for determining fines and warnings will be established.

Parkland College Wellness educator June Burch helped quell some of the concerns that students, faculty, or staff may have. She said that this policy is not telling you that you cannot smoke, it simply states that you can’t smoke on campus.

“This is a step closer to providing clean air. You can’t always tell when someone is asthmatic or has lung problems. We have to be prepared to help protect those people,” Burch explained.

She also described some ways that the college will be providing alternatives to smoking. Relief Aid kits will be available in every department office, the library, and CAS all year round. They’ll contain things such as straws, Nicorette gum, and regular gum. They’ll also have educational material and resources for those interested in quitting.

Many Illinois residents have been aware no smoking is allowed in public buildings and businesses, thanks to the Smoke Free Illinois Act that was implemented on Jan. 1, 2008.

The smoking ban states the smoking of tobacco products is not allowed indoors or within 15 feet of a door or window.

On Jan. 1, 2014 the University of Illinois implemented its own smoke free policy that stated smoking would not be allowed on any University of Illinois property or in vehicles. Last year, former governor Pat Quinn signed legislature that stated all public universities and colleges in Illinois must have a smoke free campus policy in place by July 1, 2015.

Claudia Christy is the Tobacco Free Event Coordinator at Parkland. She has been with the college for about two months and has planned two events in celebration of the campus going smoke free. One event is still in the works and will take place closer to Thanksgiving.

The first event, the Smoke Free Lunch, was held on July 1 in the area outside of the cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Students, faculty, and staff were invited to come eat and hang out. Christy explained her thoughts on the celebration.

“It’s really a celebration of Parkland becoming tobacco free. We want to let the community know that we’re excited about it and hope they can come out to have a good time,” Christy stated.

Christy knows the Parkland campus well. She attended classes at the college for two years before transferring to the University of Illinois. She saw firsthand the smoke free policy there and how it was implemented.

Now she feels as if she’s in familiar territory and is looking to give back to the campus that started her collegiate career. She believes the Smoke Free Lunch is just the first step in providing education about the smoking ban and has high hopes that the policy will affect the campus positively in the long term.

“The health and well-being of a large group is really more important than the actions of one person. I remember having to walk through a cloud of smoke sometimes just to get into the building,” Christy remarked.

In addition to the Smoke Free Lunch, a Campus Smoking Policy Task Force was created. John Eby is the chair of this task force as well as a member of the wellness committee. He helps guide the task force in decision-making and policy writing. He also acts as a liaison to Parkland administration.

Eby provided some insight into the importance of the new policy and some of its intended implications.

“To me, it is a natural outgrowth of a well-researched, well-documented, and therefore well-known approach to providing a healthier learning and work environment. In addition, it can be considered a hazard prevention and cost saving measure,” Eby provided. “Short and long term it would be an improved learning and work environment. Reduction in fire hazard and litter control are also a benefit. In the long term it could mean a savings on insurance expenses — both property and health care.”

The new policy is still not fully approved yet. It has been approved by the PCA, the Parkland College Association. It still needs to be approved by the Board of Trustees to become official. Eby is confident that it will pass since it is a state requirement. He also believes that referring to it as a ban is not entirely correct.

“I believe the term ‘ban’ implies that Parkland College is acting unilaterally, so it’s necessary that people understand, July 1st is the start date of a new law, in the State of Illinois,” he stated.  “It’s more than a change in policy for Parkland.  The law covers all campus properties, owned by or leased to, all two and four year state institutions of higher education.  So, the law affects all of Parkland College.”

With the new law coming into effect, some at the college feel a bit disgruntled about it. Patti Arthur, an office assistant in the counseling and advising department, voiced some of her concerns.

“There is a better alternative.  I used to work at a factory and they had smoking areas set up outside.  They were enclosed and away from most people so there was no worry of second hand inhalation.  Kraft had something similar, as well.  Once you start imposing your will on others just because you don’t like something or disagree with it, your society evolves from
egalitarian to something Orwellian and repressive,” Arthur said.

Signs are on their way and will be placed in parking lots, entryways, and various areas around campus. These signs will inform not just students and staff about the policy but volunteers, vendors, and visitors coming to campus.

For anyone interested in information on the new smoke free policy or resources on how to quit, they should visit the Wellness Center in Student Life or email June Burch at jburch@parkland.edu.