'We're not the no-smoking police'
A reminder to football fans who smoke: Lighting up at Illini tailgates is no longer allowed. Technically.
The University of Illinois campus went smoke-free Jan. 1, and that means no more smoking indoors or out on university property. The new policy, approved in a student referendum and adopted by the campus, is part of a growing national movement, with more than 1,100 college campuses now smoke-free.
Signs will be posted at entrances to all UI parking lots and the stadium itself today, reminding fans attending the 11 a.m. season-opener against Youngstown State of the new policy.
But police won't have no-smoking patrols scouring tailgates for offenders.
"We're not the no-smoking police," said UI Deputy Police Chief Skip Frost. "We're not going to be going out of our way to get every cigarette or pipe at the tailgates. We just don't have the manpower."
Police will simply inform smokers about the policy and ask them to snuff out their cigarette.
Still, refusing to comply could get them kicked out, though Frost isn't expecting much of that.
"The ultimate goal is volunteer compliance. If they refuse to comply, they can be removed. And if they're removed from the property, that means they can't go to the game," Frost said.
It's similar to the approach used for fans who drink alcohol at tailgates, which technically violates a state law banning open alcohol containers on public property. As long as they're above the legal drinking age and don't infringe on other tailgaters, police aren't too aggressive. But if drinkers refuse to comply after being warned, they're also asked to leave.
The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics started educating fans last year about the smoke-free policy through public service announcements at games, signs posted outside athletic venues where smokers gather and video messages at Memorial Stadium. Season-ticket holders were also given information in their fan guides.
Officials haven't spent a lot of time this year making enforcement plans, said Associate Athletic Director Kent Brown,
"There are other, more pressing issues," he said Friday. "We all know it's out there, and we expect people to abide by it."