Illinois pushes for cleaner air near college campuses
The days of smoking inside buildings are gone from most American cities. That led many people to huddle outside buildings to smoke—even in the cold. It also caused people who walked into those buildings past the smokers to endure second-hand smoke.
While hospitals took the lead years ago in restricting the distance a person could smoke outside a building, other institutions lagged behind. But the reality of a smoke-free environment on all Illinois state college and university campuses has almost reached its final hurdle.
The Illinois House of Representatives passed the Smoke Free Campus Act, which bans smoking in offices, dorms and outdoor areas at colleges and universities.Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan and Democratic state Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago, the proposed legislation would include campuses such as Western Illinois, Northern Illinois, Illinois State and Eastern Illinois universities along with community colleges that receive state money. People could still chew tobacco, smoke while driving or use e-cigarettes (a battery-powered device that simulates tobacco smoking by producing a vapor that resembles smoke) on campus because they don’t emit any smoke.
The bill heads to the Illinois Senate next. The 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that almost half a million lives are unnecessarily lost each year due to tobacco, as well as up to $333 billion in health care costs and lost productivity. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health that first linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases for the first time.
“Even though it has gotten better, I have seen mothers and children come to my office with symptoms of second-hand smoke because members of their families smoked around them,” says Dr. Mohammad Al-Massalkhi, a pulmonologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “It is still a very critical issue that people need to take seriously.”
For the past five years, various health groups have pushed for cleaner air around college campus buildings. The ills of second-hand smoke have already been well-documented. Proponents see this new measure as a means to hopefully deter smokers before they even reach a college campus.
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