Students pass referendum in support of smoking ban discussion

_Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that 10,385 ballots were cast. It should have in addition mentioned that 10,354 users voted, with 31 people submitting a ballot without voting, which still comes to a total of 10,385 submitted ballots. The Daily Illini regrets the error._

Student voters came out strongly in favor of a “smoke-free campus” Thursday with almost 70 percent of voters in favor of a campuswide ban on smoking.

Out of more than 10,000 votes that students cast online Tuesday and Wednesday, 7,123 were in favor of making the campus “smoke-free,” according to Melisande Loeppert, chair of the student election commission and graduate student. The ballot said a smoke-free campus is defined as a campus that does not allow smoking on University property. A total of 3,231 students voted against the measure.

Student trustee Hannah Ehrenberg and former DGS senator Keenan Kassar, sophomore in Business, got the item on the ballot by collecting 3,408 signatures.

“I’m ecstatic that the campus seems very supportive of this initiative,” Ehrenberg said. “Hopefully we’ll see something implemented in the near future.”

Kassar said despite the relative speed with which their smoke-free measure made it from the drawing board to getting a stamp of approval from the student body, the next steps will have to be taken slowly. He added that it took about two years for the campuswide ban on smoking to be put in place at other schools like the University of Michigan.

The vote in favor of the smoking ban does not immediately create or even guarantee tobacco smoke will be banned on University property. The ballot, as written, said that voting “yes” meant the voter “supports campus dialogue and action by the administration to explore making the (University) smoke-free.”

David Pileski, student body president, said the vote “doesn’t necessarily reflect a 100 percent-smoking ban.”

“I think it’s people saying they support open dialogue and having an open conversation,” he said.

However Pileski said the campus hasn’t “seen this high voter turnout in a long time.” Student senator elections in March 2011 brought out a total of 3,705 voters.

Kassar said efforts to accommodate smokers would still be made. He said the possibility of constructing smoker pods or designating open air areas for smokers would be brought to the table when University administration looks at a ban.

“Even if there’s 10 percent that says no, we need to compromise because we can’t just leave smokers out like that,” he said. “Not everyone’s going to be happy, but we’ll try to make it work for the majority of them.”

Matt Gold, senator and junior in LAS, voted against the measure. He said he believed the issue weighed more heavily on whether the University should play that role in smokers’ lives.

“I’m not a smoker — I think it’s a disgusting habit,” Gold said. “But I don’t think it’s in my power to control them.”

Kassar added that discussions on the measure with the campus community — especially smokers — are forthcoming for when University administration considers the measure over the next couple of years.

_Hannah Meisel contributed to this report_