U. of Illinois smoking ban takes effect in Jan.

CHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois is preparing to go smoke-free when the state’s flagship campus bans smoking starting Jan. 1.

But the upcoming restrictions aren’t sitting well with some tailgaters who say they want to light up, according to a report in The Champaign News-Gazette.

“I think it’s kind of silly, in an environment like this,” said Chris Roegge, who puffed on a cigar during the Illini’s final home game last month. “How do they enforce something like that?”

The Urbana-Champaign campus already bans smoking inside buildings – although there’s an exception for some hotel rooms – and within 25 feet of any building entrance. State law requires a similar restriction, but prohibits smoking within 15 feet of a building entrance.

The policies, which will also ban electronic cigarettes, were announced in October 2012 after students passed a non-binding referendum in favor of the ban. The new restrictions were set to take effect in November. But administrators decided to delay the change because they “didn’t want to hit people right before finals,” said Robin Kaler, a school spokeswoman.

More than 1,100 college campuses in the U.S. are smoke-free, according to American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. That amounts to about a quarter of schools across the country.

Administrators said they’ll work to communicate the new rules starting for the first several months of the year.

They’re tapping a dozen student ambassadors who will have “diplomatic conversations” about the policies if they spot anyone smoking on campus. New, no-smoking signs are being posted over winter break. And the school is launching a “smoke-free campus” website to answer questions and show campus boundaries.

“Nobody’s really going to come down on a smoker who’s having a hard time adjusting to the new policy,” said Michele Guerra, director of the UI Wellness Center. “We’re not asking people to quit smoking. We’re asking people out of concern for keeping the entire campus community healthy to not smoke on campus property.”

Guerra said nicotine gum and “quit kits” with tips on how to stop smoking will also be available around campus and in residence halls.

UI Deputy Police Chief Skip Frost said authorities won’t be handing out citations because smoking won’t violate a law – just a campus policy.

“We’re not going to be lying in the bushes and jumping upon people,” Frost said.

As for Roegge, he says he still plans to smoke while tailgating next football season.

“I’ll probably bring my cigars next year and light ‘em up, and if they tell me to throw them away and quit, I’ll quit,” he said.

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