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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Columns

‘Smoke-free’ UH burns students


cougarsmoking

David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

On Saturday, the University joined 711 colleges and universities around the country when it banned all tobacco products and became a tobacco-free campus, except for 20 one-year designated smoking areas.

A tobacco-free policy was first introduced in 2001. Four revisions and approximately 10 years later, it was approved by a new condition from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, requiring any school receiving funds from the Institute to disallow tobacco products on its campus.

According to a press release by University representative Laura Tolley, the initiative is part of UH’s commitment to providing a healthy and sustainable environment for everyone in the UH community.

Some such as Jim, author of “University of Houston to Ban Tobacco” an article found on smokersutopia.com, rebuffs Tolley’s comment saying that the real reason behind the policy is the approximately $9.4 million that the CPRIT grants the University. Regardless of reason, the true problem is not that there is a policy, it is the University’s weak implementation of it.

“This policy will be achieved primarily through education, awareness and cooperation,” according to Tolley’s press release. Once enacted, “UH community members are allowed to respectfully inform a person using a tobacco product about the ban and request that (they) comply,” unless in a smoking area.

Those who disrespect the policy can be reported to the UH Tobacco Task Force website. These individuals will then receive an email reminding them of the policy.

The policy is so weak that it can be termed more of a suggestion than a rule. Having students self-police others without actual repercussions is as useless as telling a child to behave without ensuring punishment. If there is no fine for violating the policy, there is little incentive to respect it.

Even faultier is the email report. Random strangers do not carry a name tag on their shirt. Hence, if a stranger is smoking in a non-smoking area, there is no way to report them unless you ask for their name, and they actually give it to you. This only gets faultier with non-students who would not receive an email even if they gave their name.

The University of Texas, which has a similar policy to UH, is in its second year and removed the smoking areas this year. UT sophomore Muhammad Merli-Ahmad said that although students employ their watch-dog role, smoking still happens on campus.

“People still seem to be able to smoke at the old smoking areas,” Merli-Ahmad said. “(The policy) limited the area of smoking, but who knows, maybe one day if they see they aren’t getting punished or fined, they will smoke more freely on campus.”

Prior to the tobacco-free policy, there was a 15-feet smoking ban from buildings and yet smokers still crowded the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library steps daily. Compliance with this policy is doubtful and although the University policy fulfills the CPRIT’s requirements, it lacks the strengths to make a real change. Without a more severe punishment for its violators, preferably in the form of a monetary fine, there is little incentive to comply.

Mónica Rojas is a print journalism sophomore may be reached at [email protected]


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