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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state law about smoking on a college campus?

The State of Illinois passed a law (Smoke-Free Campus Act 098-0985) requiring all state-supported colleges and universities to be smoke-free as of July 1, 2015.

Why is NIU smoke free?

NIU wants to provide and maintain a healthy and safe working and living environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors, and a smoke-free campus is an optimal way to realize the health and safety benefits while reducing smoking-related litter throughout campus and complying with state law.

What was the process for implementing the Smoke Free Campus Act?

The NIU Smoke-Free Task Force was formed in Fall, 2014. Draft policy development and campus dialogues occurred through March 2015, and the final policy was posted in April 2015. Signage and other communications were in place before and after the law took effect on July 1, 2015.

How is the Smoke-Free NIU policy being communicated to campus groups and potential visitors?

Communications include but are not limited to:

  • Notification of policy to current and prospective students and employees through communication available on University websites;
  • Notification during the admission and enrollment process and/or during new hire orientation for faculty and staff;
  • Informational meetings, postings, and electronic notifications
  • Community discussions
  • Campus signage
  • Various print and digital media
  • Social media platforms
  • Communications to external organizations and entities
  • Contracts/Agreements
  • Media exposure on- and off-campus
How are the needs and perspectives of different people on campus being taken into account?

The smoke-free task force was made up of a diverse group of smokers, former smokers and non-smokers. Numerous campus dialogues about the law and its implementation helped the task force gain insights into implementation of the state law in a manner that is thoughtful, considerate and relies on the cooperation of each individual in achieving a more healthy campus community.

I currently smoke. Does this mean I have to quit?

No. The University policy does not require people who smoke to quit smoking, but rather to refrain from smoking while on campus. The policy does not regulate personal choice regarding smoking while off-campus.

Does Illinois’ smoke-free campus policy extend to other campus-owned property outside of the main campus?

The policy includes all campus-owned property, including those in DeKalb/Sycamore and regional centers in Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Rockford and the Lorado Taft campus in Oregon.

Why are e-cigarettes prohibited?

Both the University policy and the Illinois state law prohibit the use of e-cigarettes. The Illinois Smoke-Free Campus Act prohibits the use of products containing or delivering nicotine intended or expected for human consumption, with limited exception for tobacco use cessation products approved by the FDA. Electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine derived from tobacco, and have not been approved by the FDA. While they are not lighted in the combustible way that a traditional tobacco filled cigar or cigarette is, there is a heating mechanism inside that turns liquid nicotine into a vapor to be inhaled.

Is smoking allowed in university vehicles?

No. Smoking in university vehicles remains prohibited under the new policy as it has in the past.

How will people know where they can and can’t smoke?

All campus-owned property will be smoke-free. Signs will be posted on campus. The online Smoke-Free NIU Map identifies campus boundaries.

Will there be designated smoking areas on campus?

No. By law, smoking is prohibited on all NIU controlled property, effective July 1, 2015. Establishing designated smoking areas is not allowed under the state law. Once outside the boundaries of University controlled properties, smoking is subject to local jurisdiction. Smoke-Free NIU Map

What about University neighbors?

NIU asks that students, faculty, and staff help maintain a positive relationship with our neighbors that border the campuses. We encourage everyone to respect the property of others by not littering and not congregating in areas to smoke. We have reached out to our neighbors, informed them of the Smoke-Free NIU policy, and encouraged open communication if a problem arises.  

What is the fine for leaving butts on the ground

Dropping cigarette butts on the ground or putting them in planters or in waterways is littering.  The fines for littering in Illinois can be up to $1500 and six months in jail.

Fines for littering vary by local jurisdiction.  For instance, in the City of DeKalb, the fine for littering can range from $35 to $500. In Illinois, there is a mandatory minimum fine for the first offense of $50, and fines up to $1500 (along with a and six months in jail) are possible.  Local police have the authority to write up local ordinance violations or state law violations at their discretion.  

Can I smoke in a private vehicle that is parked on university property?

Yes. At this point, smoking in a personal vehicle is not considered a violation of the policy as long as it does not impact others. Cigarette butts and smoking materials must be disposed of properly.

If I choose to continue to smoke and do not have enough time to leave campus to smoke what am I supposed to do?

The University is aware that nicotine is a highly addictive drug and simply waiting until lunch-time or after work will be difficult for some. We encourage the use of nicotine replacement products such as gum or lozenges for times when it is inconvenient to smoke. Please work with your health care provider to determine the appropriate product.

Will smoking be allowed at football games, concerts, or other special events?

No. Smoking will be prohibited at football games, concerts, and other special events occurring on campus owned property. 

How will the policy be enforced?

The campus community will collectively share the responsibility of enforcing the policy by respectfully letting others know about our new Smoke-Free Campus.

Many of our classmates, friends, colleagues and visitors may not be aware of the new policy. We all have a role in helping people comply. If you see someone smoking, please politely and respectfully let him/her know NIU is a smoke-free campus. If someone is hostile with you, do not escalate the situation. Simply walk away and contact NIU Police, at 815-753-1212, to inform them of the hostility.

Why should I comply?

Civility and respect for others will guide the transition toward a smoke-free campus. This policy may be challenging for some smokers, but it is hoped that they will respect the rights of their fellow members of the University community to breathe smoke-free air.

Will there be consequences for violating the policy?

After a period of education of the campus community, the policy will be enforced through existing disciplinary procedures. Individuals who violate the policy will be subject to existing campus disciplinary measures as follows:

  • Students will be referred to Student Conduct. Infractions should be reported through the non-academic incident report form available at
  • Employees will be referred to the employee's supervisor or Human Resource Services as applicable. Infractions should be reported to the employee’s supervisor or to Human Resources Services at 812-753-6000 or
  • Contractors and subcontractors will be referred to the campus unit responsible for monitoring performance of the applicable contract.
  • Campus visitors may be asked to leave campus.
I supervise several employees who smoke. How will they manage under the new policy?

Should they choose to do so, employees may use their allotted work breaks to travel off-campus to smoke. However, employees will not be given additional break time for smoking. Supervisors must be clear with employees on this matter.

Where can I get Nicotine Replacement Therapy?

Nicotine replacement therapy is available at a variety of off-campus locations including, but not limited to, CVS, Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Target and Walmart pharmacies. Local retailers generally have a variety of products, and it’s best to check with your pharmacist or physician for the best product for your needs. While individuals over 18 years of age can obtain NRT without a prescription, individuals under 18 years of age must have a prescription to obtain NRT. 

Faculty, staff, students and visitors will find Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products at a number of on-campus locations including:

What should I say to someone who is smoking on campus?

Consider saying: “As of July 1, 2015, smoking is prohibited on all campus property, both indoors and outdoors, and in university owned vehicles. The policy does not apply to smoking in privately owned vehicles parked on campus. The policy applies to everyone on campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thank you for helping us to create a healthier environment in which to study, work and play.”

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