UT and Rice disagree over most effective tobacco policy

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Rice University initiates partial smoking ban to comply with Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which grants Rice and UT-Austin alike. (File photo illustration)

Photo Credit: Shea Carley | Daily Texan Staff

The battle over tobacco use on university campuses continues to heat up as Texas schools take different policy approaches.

UT banned tobacco campus-wide earlier this year after the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas changed its grant application, announcing a provision prohibiting tobacco use in areas of campus where institute-funded cancer research takes place. The institute is a state-funded organization that works to fight cancer through research funding and other initiatives and has awarded UT more than $33 million for cancer research.

This past Saturday, Rice University also announced it was adopting a tobacco-free policy to comply with CPRIT guidelines. However, Rice only implemented a partial tobacco ban, leading some to question whether UT’s full ban was necessary. Rice’s partial ban consists of 13 designated areas on-campus where tobacco use is allowed.

Whichever route to compliance CPRIT-funded entities choose, Heidi McConnell, chief operating officer for CPRIT, said as long as they follow grant rules, their funding will not be affected.

Adrienne Howarth-Moore, UT director for human resource services, said the University thought a partial ban would not have been cost-feasible because of the logistics of where CPRIT-funded research happens at UT.

“There are a multitude of buildings on-campus that have CPRIT research going on, and those buildings can change from semester to semester as each semester comes around and new research initiatives are proposed,” she said.

“Administratively, from a cost-and-resource perspective, that would mean we would have to re-map and potentially move locations every semester.”

UT’s 431-acre campus received $20.4 million in CPRIT funding last year, while Rice’s 285-acre campus received $10.8 million, according to CPRIT and U.S. News & World Report.

In an interview with the Rice Thresher, Rice’s university campus newspaper, Kevin Kirby, vice president for administration at Rice, said a campus-wide tobacco ban would not have been appropriate at Rice due to other feasibility concerns.

“For us, a complete ban was not practical or enforceable and would lead to unintended consequences like people moving to nearby neighborhoods or sidewalks around campus,” Kirby said.

Howarth-Moore said she is not sure how the possible effectiveness of only a partial ban at Rice could affect the policy at UT, but she believes higher education is going toward a tobacco-free direction. She said the University worked on several initiatives to make UT tobacco-free prior to the new CPRIT regulation and a national tobacco-free university initiative is being introduced by the U.S. government later this month.

Since the beginning of the tobacco-ban at UT last spring, the administration has mainly been focused on communicating the new policy to the UT community, as most violations have been due to lack of awareness. With the placement of signs around campus over the summer, however, Howarth-Moore said UT will now begin to evaluate the effectiveness of the new policy.

“We’re really planning to do an assessment this semester, as it’s the first with the policy and signage in place,” she said.

Howarth-Moore said plans are still in place to completely ban tobacco on UT’s campus this February. There are currently designated areas throughout UT’s campus where tobacco use is allowed in order to make the transition to a tobacco-free campus easier.

According to the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, 562 colleges have enacted campus-wide tobacco bans.

Printed on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 as: Rice passes partial ban on tobacco