NEWS

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April 14, 2006

States likely to ban smoking in dorms

The Illinois Senate and House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to the Illinois Clean Indoor Air Act that would ban smoking in university dormitories across the state if Governor Rod Blagojevich signs it into law.

The amendment would prohibit smoking throughout private and public dorms, except for commercial areas of the buildings.

“If, as it is expected to be, this bill is signed into law by the governor, smoking will be prohibited in all public and private areas of university residence halls, including individual student rooms,” said Katie Callow-Wright, associate dean of students and director of undergraduate student housing.

The law would override the University policy of allowing students to choose between smoking or non-smoking houses. The University has not taken an official stance either for or against the bill.

“We have increased the number of halls and houses that are smoking-free over the past several years in response to increased demand from incoming and returning students for smoke-free living environments,” Callow-Wright said.

“On the other hand, we have talked about becoming smoke-free across the system over the years, but have not done so because of student opinion on the matter,” she said. “The Inter-House Council has considered this issue on several occasions.”

The University administration said the impact of a possible smoking ban on students’ decisions to return to housing is unknown.

State Representative John Fritchey (D-Chicago) defended the bill on the grounds of secondhand smoke and fire safety.

“You still had schools in Illinois [that], while allowing smoking in dormitories, also required freshmen to live on campus,” Fritchey said in an interview. “Accordingly, you could end up putting those freshmen in a situation where they had no choice but to live in a potentially hazardous environment.”

Despite the intended health benefits, the potential smoking ban drew varied responses from U of C students.

“It wouldn’t affect my decision whether or not to stay in housing,” said Frank Gonzales, a second-year in the College. “Since I don’t smoke it could almost be a good thing.”

Tom Hansberger, a first-year in the College, said the bill “might be a little too extreme.” He said as long as housing provides non-smoking space for those who do not want to be in a smoking environment, colleges should not be forced to prohibit dormitory smoking.

Erik Lokensgard, a first-year in the College and a resident of Hale House in the Shoreland, said he prefers not to be around smoke, and that poor ventilation allows smoke from a smoking room to spread into the hallway.

Lokensgard said he would support giving students the choice to smoke, but that, especially with Chicago’s winter, there should be a common smoking room with improved ventilation.