Chicago city law curtails campus smoking policy

By Justin Sink

At the U of C, the tradition of between-class cigarette breaks may go the way of Big 10 football or camping out on the main quads to register for classes as the University begins to implement the City of Chicago’s recently passed Clean Indoor Air Ordinance.

Donald Reaves, vice president for administration, detailed in an e-mail sent to all students, faculty, and staff how the University would update its policies to comply with the new law, which requires all University buildings to be smoke-free, and further dictates that smoking is now prohibited within 15 feet of the entrance to any public building.

“The city ordinance and the University policy are designed to protect individuals from the dangers of second-hand smoke,” Reaves said in the e-mail.

Yet the action to ban smokers from their traditional perches outside the entrances to classrooms, libraries, and coffee shops across campus has raised skepticism from some who view the new law as excessive.

“It’s so stupid,” said Kim Eggert, a second-year in the College. “They have the things there so you can put out the cigarette before you go inside. Is it really that obnoxious to people if people are smoking outside?”

The University’s Office of Facilities Services plans to remove all the urns in which smokers now deposit their wasted cigarettes, along with any signs that contradict the new ordinance, by the end of the week. The project was originally slated to be completed by Tuesday, February 14, but was instead incorporated into Facilities Services’ regular maintenance work to minimize cost to the University.

Even with the removal of such amenities, many question whether smokers will actually change their habits and move away from building entrances, or if the lack of ashtrays will ultimately result in more litter on the sidewalks outside buildings.

“It seems kind of like what happened during Prohibition,” said second-year in the College Beckie Stocchetti. “We all know second-hand smoke is bad for you, and that it’s against the law, but that’s not really going to stop people from smoking where they want.”

While ultimate enforcement of the ban lies with City of Chicago police, Steve Beaudoin, director of the Office of Safety and Environmental Affairs, said the University would take an active role in implementing the ordinance.

“Safety will enforce the ordinance by responding to complaints,” Beaudoin said. “And we also inspect each building on campus several times a year and are always moving about campus, so if we see someone violating the ordinance we will immediately advise the individual that they are in violation of the city ordinance and instruct them to stop smoking or, if appropriate, move away from the entrance to a building. If the same person continues to be in violation of the ordinance, we will obtain their name and department/academic program and notify the individual’s department or academic program to request that they correct this behavior.”

The ban does not affect residence halls or apartment buildings, as housing is considered by the city to be a private residence. But University policy still bans smoking in the public spaces of apartment buildings and dormitories and in the individual rooms of students in non-smoking houses. Resident Heads have been asked to be more vigilant in enforcing the no-smoking policy in house common areas.

Students may also experience the effects of the new ordinance while frequenting some of the city’s most popular attractions. All Chicago restaurants, bars, taverns, and nightclubs-and the 15-foot radius around their entrance-have become smoke-free zones.