Tobacco on campus goes up in smoke
UH will become tobacco-free June 1, school officials announced Thursday.
The new policy, approved by UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator, bans the use of tobacco products in all university buildings and grounds, including parking areas, sidewalks and walkways. It will apply to all employees, students, contractors and visitors to the campus.
“We are very well aware that this will be an inconvenience to the UH community of smokers,” said Kathryn Peek, assistant vice president of University Health Initiatives and co-chair of UH’s Tobacco Task Force. “But nobody has to quit smoking. What we’re trying to do is eliminate second-hand smoke on the campus.”
For smokers, the University will provide 20 designated open areas for tobacco use mostly situated away from buildings and walkways. People will be able to smoke there, but after a year the task force will decide whether to disallow on-campus smoking entirely.
During this phase-in period, Peek said, the task force plans to do surveys and asks that the UH community — smokers and non-smokers — visit its website to report observations regarding the tobacco use areas. Depending on its findings, it will decide if the number of areas will decrease or go away completely.
“We can certainly be responsible for adding designated areas as well,” Peek said. “If it turns out that there is an obvious need in a particular location then that would be considered.”
The ban includes, but is not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes, electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco and any other non-FDA approved nicotine delivery devices.
Last year, the University established the UH Tobacco Task Force as part of its commitment to providing a healthy and sustainable environment for everyone in the campus community.
UH is a recipient of more than $9.4 million in funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, which began requiring its recipients in 2012 to have tobacco-free policies in and around all locations where research is conducted.
“CPRIT accelerated the university’s tobacco-free campus policy, but that isn’t the sole reason,” Peek said. “This was a student-led movement from the beginning.”
LiveRED, a campaign initiated by students in 2010 prompted discussions to expand anti-smoking policies, which the SGA addressed during meetings with the tobacco task force last year.
“I predict that enforcing the smoking zones will be difficult since it requires student monitoring and a cultural shift on campus,” said Yesenia Chavez, SGA Student Life Committee Chair. “However, I am confident that student smokers will become more aware of how their habit affects bystanders and foresee a healthier student body population at UH.”