UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The University of Illinois has been smoke-free since 2014. That includes tobacco, as well as vape products.
Now, it’s adding some new things to the policy, including chewing products and dissolvables. Despite the changes, university leaders say that’s not their biggest focus this year. They actually want to remind people that vaping is still banned.
“We’re really trying to use this opportunity to educate the campus community and visitors,” said UI Director of Campus Wellbeing Services Michele Guerra.
A lot of people just aren’t aware that it’s banned. University leaders say the growing number of vapers are another part of why they want to spread the message. They’re also concerned about the unknowns.
“I think one of the main misconceptions is that that word vape is kind of nebulous,” said Champaign Urbana Public Health Department Health Education Program Coordinator Whitney Greger.
It’s still new to many of us. Unlike smoking tobacco, many don’t associate it with being dangerous. That’s why the campus community is taking this opportunity to educate people. The university is updating its smoking policy to also ban non-smoking forms of tobacco.
“Most people think of chewing products, but it also involves a class of tobacco products called dissolvables,” said Guerra.
They say they’re doing this for a much more important reason: reminding people that vaping is not allowed.
“A lot of people don’t understand because the policy is called a smoke free policy, it’s not called a vape free policy, they don’t understand that they’re not allowed to vape on campus,” said Guerra.
Students say they support the idea, but as school leaders suspected, they aren’t aware of the vaping aspect.
“I knew that tabacoo is banned, this campus is smoke free, but I didn’t know the vape thing. I’ve seen many of the students vaping around multiple times,” said graduate student Abhiraj Singh Chouhan.
Greger says it’s all the questions around vaping that make it something you should stay away from. She says it’s also important that it’s becomes less common.
“We do not have the long-term studies like we do on conventional cigarettes of what that vape is doing inside of people’s bodies,” said Greger. “Young, little kids, they haven’t grown up seeing a lot of people smoking a conventional cigarette, but now we have all these young people seeing people using vapes and so it just normalizes the behavior on campus.”
Vaping has also been linked to severe respiratory illnesses. The Champaign County Public Health Department says there are currently 10 of those cases in the state. They’re all related to people with a history of vaping, but no specific product has been pinpointed.