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.


  • This is awesome! I’m sick of walking around campus and breathing other people’s smoke. Smokers want the right to smoke, but I want the right to not be forced to breathe theirs. Smoke somewhere else.

    • How about you also gave up your car? I’m sick of walking to campus and breathing your fumes. Sorry, forgot, smoking is more harmful.

    • How about you also gave up your car? I’m sick of walking to campus and breathing your fumes. Sorry, forgot, smoking is more harmful.

  • I don’t know about this one. I’m a non-smoker. But on a campus like U of H in order to respect people’s right to smoke. You’re going to have to set up permanent smoking areas. Its not realistic to ask students to go to their car every time they want to smoke.

  • Just like Kevin, I do not smoke, but I respect people’s right to smoke. Sorry Wayne, what if you live on campus? You expect smokers walk to a ‘smoking area’ every time they want a cigarette? Doesn’t sound fair to me. This is a college campus, people are over 18. You want your freedom to not breathe in their smoke? You already have it. Don’t walk so close to them. All you gotta do is get a solid 15 feet away, and you won’t be ‘forced’ to breathe in their smoke.

    Also people talk always talk about rising tuition, well how do you think they will pay for this special task force? With our tuition money.

  • That is great news. This should happen long time ago. There is no people right in this thing, because it effect a lot of people negatively.

  • Does this mean the C-store is going to stop selling cigarettes? Because I’m pretty sure Aramark is not gonna be too happy about losing that giant mark-up racket they have going on.

  • I am a smoker and agree completely with their decision. If we’d like to enjoy the upgrades and amenities the campus provides – we need to learn to respect where the money to Pay for all of this funnels down from. Millions of dollars for research to prevent cancer is likely not limited to research itself. UH says they will designate specified areas to accomodate the want of a smoke. But if we regret to take a breather from smoking ourselves, we will find that arguing against this will only support a cyclical cycle. Are we as smokers justified in saying we dont want your money, CPRIT?We as students ARE over 18, meaning we have the wit and the will to make a way for whatever we want in life; ie. smoke all we want (or whatever). Let’s just not bite the hand that will be taking care of our asses once we catch cancer…

  • Finally! I thought it was a great disservice for people to be smoking in front of the M.D. Anderson Library since it was named for one of the leading researchers of cancer. My mother is being treated for lung cancer (due to smoking) by M.D. Anderson, and I’m grateful that something is finally being done.

  • This is a step in the right direction but I can see how some people may get offended…

    Nice cover photo by the way… but is that shadow of a pen that’s supposed to be a cigarette? lol

  • I don’t smoke, but it is just plain fascist to tell adults that they cannot smoke at their own homes. It’s bad enough that we on-campus residents cannot own guns.

  • Yeah people have the right to smoke but we also have the right to not get cancer from it. I’m not gonna “keep a distance” from smokers just because they roam around campus. If they want to smoke, fine, but do it out of other people’s way and don’t say “Well you could always stay further behind or just avoid them.” No that’s dumb. Why should I have to change my path and walking area for them?

  • I’m a non smoker, but I believe that people should have the right to smoke. I think the perfect solution would be to designate several covered smoking areas on campus and highlight them on campus maps. God forbid someone take 10 extra steps to get out of the way of second hand smoke. We do live in Houston after all.

  • My father died of lung cancer. I am a smoker. For those of you who do not smoke, a pack of cigarettes is more than six dollars. Much of that is tax – on every siingle pack of cigarettes. The claim I often hear it this outrageous tax is to off-set health costs incurred by those who contract cancer. My father had insurance. When that ran out, the state DID NOT rush to his aid. In fact, his treatments ended, and he died two weeks after my 16th birthday. My mother had already died, when I was 12, and the state did not rush to my aid then, nor do I expect they would do so, were I to contract the disease. Areas in which it is permissible to smoke are already severely restrited. If I can not smoke anywhere on campus, I feel all non-smokers should pay the extra five dollars a day, that I, as a smoker, pay per day.

      • Did the CPRIT approve the grant? Is there some type of price-cut for the patch? Where do I go? Who do I call? Do you have a number?

        The questions above are the reason I jumped Online. Then I stumbled across this forgotten posting of mine, and I woud like to address Lacy’s concern.

        Immediately after doing so, I regretted my above posting. That was my knee-jerk response to reading the news. My little tirade was inappropriate for this forum, even venturing quite off-topic. However, I would like to respond to your comment.

        You are correct; no one forced me to spend those $6. On someone else’s time-table, I am being forced to quit. I guess I have a problem with that, because my ‘self-madd addiction’ was born while “smoking” candy cigarettes. It was fostered as I watched cigarette ads on television. My self-hatred (or perhaps you’re using madd as insanity? either way…) sprang to life in earnest in 8th grade, when I began smoking at 12 years old. Right here, in Houston, it continued in that vein within the confines of the smoking section (for students) at Bellaire High School. I have been smoking for longer than (and here I’m guessing) you have been alive. If I am correct in that guess, you have grown-up / are growing-up in an entirely different world. I resent that I am now, at this late date, forced to choose between attending an institution (receiving State Funding) and smoking. If that right is being taken away, I feel the excessive taxes should be too. I guess the tobacco company lobbiests who have so greatly influenced past laws and policies aren’t what they once were. FYI? I whole-heartedly regret I ever began smoking.

  • The one year temporary locations where it would be ok to use Tabaco would need to be permanent locations.

    I do not think they have given any thought as to how this wound affect visitors to campus? Example – an event at say Cullen Performance Hall attracting 1500 attendees and the event is focused on a demographic of the Houston population that has a significant amount of smokers. Or the larger example, the 40,000 people attending a football game at the new football stadium on campus. Is facility staff to start giving citations to everyone using Tabaco who have stepped outside for a smoke? This puts staff in a precarious position of enforcing something that would be near impossible with the number of people that would be stepping outside the building for a smoke. This would also have serious effects on the experience of visitors to campus, more specifically alumni for football, but any public or private event on campus, and thus affect their desire to donate to UH or rent a facility for an event?

    There will always need to be permanent designated use areas near the entrances of some facilities.

    The policy limits on use seem like a nice goal, but would never be achived. The remainder of the policy (sale, advertising and sampling of all tobacco products) seems resonable.

  • I’ve got a feeling that the Den is really excited about this. Because it’s technically off-campus, smokers will have their last real haven there.

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