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New campus rule - no smoking, nowhere

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By Elaine Belsito

UIC fully kicked the habit and joined the unhooked generation Monday with a policy that prohibits smoking in all indoor locations, plus doorways, entry areas outside buildings and outdoor eating locations.

Smoking is also prohibited in all UIC-owned or leased vehicles.

The no-smoking policy was designed by a staff, faculty and student committee that included Michael Ginsburg, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, and Judson Mitchell, associate vice chancellor for human resources. It replaces a more lenient policy, set in 1993, that prohibited smoking indoors but allowed department heads to establish smoking areas.

Ginsburg says the new rules bring UIC into the mainstream of American no-smoking policy.

"If you look at many other hospitals, universities or municipalities, what we have here is similar to what other people have done," he said.

"The dangers of secondhand smoke do affect people who don't smoke, so from a health point of view it's physically better not to be exposed. And a university that has a strong health component ought to take a moral position that smoking should not occur on campus."

Ginsburg says enforcement of the policy lies in the hands of the campus community.

"It's up to all of us to co-exist," he said.

Several UIC smokers criticized the new policy.

"This is another case of our being helped whether we like it or not," said Lee Jennings, professor and head of the German department.

"There's more to this than a public health issue; it has its dark, mob mentality side.

"A study suggests that if I stopped smoking at my age, I might increase my life expectancy by one month. I don't smoke where anybody might be bothered by it, except for busybodies bent on being bothered."

Although several smokers said they understand the health benefits of a smoke-free environment, the policy is unfair because it allows no indoor smoking areas whatsoever.

"It's all right to go out and smoke now, but what happens when it's 40 below?" asked one academic professional who, like most of the other smokers interviewed, asked not to be identified.

Ginsburg said the university cannot afford to properly ventilate smoking lounges so that they will not contaminate the rest of the building.

Some smokers felt the smoking prohibition in exterior doorways was vague and needlessly stringent.

Ginsburg says it protects non-smokers from crossing a gauntlet of smoke each time they enter a building.

"I think it will cause more problems in the long run," offered one smoker, predicting increased breaks, decreased productivity, resentment and furtive indoor smoking.

Jennings and others said they foresee a backlash against the policy.

All the smokers interviewed emphasized the addictive nature of their habit.

"It's not like it's going to go away. As long as people can buy cigarettes, they're going to do it," said an administrative aide.

Nevertheless, one employee tried to look on the bright side.

"I thought I could take advantage of it as an opportunity to cut down, because I couldn't smoke at work. Because everybody is on me to quit.

"Nobody smokes anymore," she said with a frown. "It's no fun."

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