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Sunday, November 28, 2021

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University calls for tobacco-free policy


An SGA Senate bill passed in January increased the number of non-smoking areas and banned smoking altogether in high-traffic areas. There are currently 711 tobacco-free campuses nationwide, with 23 in Texas. |  Hendrick Rosemond/The Daily Cougar

An SGA Senate bill passed in January increased the number of non-smoking areas and banned smoking altogether in high-traffic areas. There are currently 711 tobacco-free campuses nationwide, with 23 in Texas. | Hendrick Rosemond/The Daily Cougar

A special Tobacco Task Force, authorized by Provost John Antel, finalized its proposal Friday for a transition to a tobacco-free campus beginning this fall and will present it later this week to UH President Renu Khator and a committee of University vice presidents as well as the University Coordinating Commission.

“A new UH tobacco policy will be recommended this week,” said Assistant Vice President of University Health Initiatives Kathryn Peek in a special report at the Student Government Association Senate meeting June 6. “We expect a quick turnaround from the president, but it may take longer for a response from the UCC.”

Provost Antel charged the University Health Initiatives in March to create the UH Tobacco Task Force. In April, Khator requested a recommendation by June for an update to current tobacco policies, which already set specific restrictions on smoking on campus.

Peek and Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Floyd Robinson were appointed co-chairs of the task force.

“The provost wanted us to create a campus-wide policy to reduce health risks for all members of the UH community, which includes students, faculty, staff and visitors, but that still respects the civil rights of individuals,” Peek said.

These changes stem from a state rule passed in January requiring certification of a tobacco-free policy for any institution receiving funds from the Cancer Prevention Research Institution of Texas.

To date, UH has received $6.9 million from CPRIT, Peek said. In order to continue receiving these funds for research initiatives, the University must abide by this new requirement.

“We have a very high and reasonable expectation that many more million dollars are coming our way over the next few years,” Peek said.

“We have been actively recruiting and bringing in some high-power, talented cancer researchers to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The proposed policy will be based largely on the University of Texas Austin policy enacted in April and will prohibit the use, sale, advertising and sampling of all tobacco products on the UH main campus and at the Energy Research Park. It will allow for a one-year transition period where a small number of temporarily designated tobacco-use areas will be set up.

“We’ll be having working groups going on to make sure we have a comprehensive education/communication campaign to inform the whole UH community about the new policy and the availability for smoking cessation services,” Peek said.

In February, UH submitted a grant application to CPRIT requesting $150,000 over two years to cover the cost of providing smoking cessation services to students, which would include anything from therapy to providing nicotine patches. CPRIT is expected to respond to this application before the end of June.

“If we are going to have a tobacco free policy on this campus, we have to help people who want to quit (do so). And that’s a part of the policy,” Peek said.

Questions were brought up at the SGA Senate meeting June 6 about tobacco users who live on campus. The task force is still deliberating how to handle these types of issues.

Once the proposal is presented and accepted, the new policy will be announced at the end of the summer and will go into effect in the fall.

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