UT Considers Campus-Wide Tobacco Ban

We know smoking is bad for your health, but it may be equally bad for UT’s pocketbook starting March 1.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas decided Feb. 2 that it would no longer fund research at institutions without a campus-wide smoking ban. For UT, that would mean a loss of about $30 million in funding, plus $88 million in potential grants.

This new policy will prevent new research proposals from getting funding starting March 1 if UT hasn’t approved a ban by that date. All ongoing grants will continue to be available until Aug. 31 regardless of the ruling, according to UT’s Vice President for Research Juan Sanchez.

A non-smoking policy already exists for campus buildings and dorms, but this new regulation would eliminate smoking on sidewalks, in parking garages, and even at tailgates and sporting events.

So what does this mean for campus smokers? After all, there are 50,000 students and 24,000 faculty and staff members at UT, many of whom light up on a daily basis.

The goal of the Cancer Institute of Texas’ new policy is to eliminate smoking around buildings that house CPRIT-funded research, according to Sanchez. Because so many buildings are involved, it’s possible that the the entire campus—all 350 acres of it—will become tobacco free—which means a long walk for those who need a cigarette break during the day.

“We’re in the process of evaluating where all the CPRIT property is located,” says University spokeswoman Adrienne Howarth-Moore. “That will allow us to evaluate whether we’ll have a tobacco-free campus, or just portions that are.”

Both Sanchez and Howarth-Moore point out that UT already offers cessation programs for students, faculty, and staff. Whether to increase such programs will be a decision made in the coming days.

In order to comply by March 1, the University has already begun consulting with campus organizations including the Faculty Council, Staff Council, and Student Government, which has been particularly vocal about making UT smoke-free.

Among the opponents to a tobacco-free campus may be President Bill Powers himself: in a speech to the Staff Council last March, Powers stated that he opposed a campus-wide smoking ban.

Howarth-Moore is hopeful, however, that the University will make a judgment call by March 1 and prevent any funds from being lost.

“I think our leadership is committed to maintaining our core purpose of research,” she says. “At the end of the day, the campus community wants to preserve UT’s standing as a first-rate research institution.”

Photo courtesy Flickr user lanier67.


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