Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas

Biology senior Muhammad Alsaedi smokes a cigarette at the Littlefield temporary smoking area Thursday evening. Starting March 1, smoking tobacco will no longer be allowed at the 15 temporary locations to make the University a fully tobacco-free campus.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The University will remove temporary smoking locations next month to become a fully tobacco-free campus but will continue to enforce the policy without fining violators.

Starting March 1, smoking tobacco will no longer be allowed at the 15 temporary locations, including two at the Pickle Research Center.

University spokeswoman Adrienne Howarth-Moore said the tobacco-free policy applies to UT property and areas under the University’s control, excluding neighboring streets. She said the University will monitor areas on campus where tobacco use is reported.

“Although there is not currently a fines structure in place, if someone repeatedly is advised to not use tobacco products and they continue to use those products, that is a violation of campus policy,” Howarth-Moore said. “It will be treated like any other violation of policy.”

Current violations of campus policy are dealt with by various organizations. For example, students who breach University policy must deal with it through Student Judicial Services at the Dean of Students.

In February 2012, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, required the University to make all facilities tobacco-free by March of that year to continue to recieve research funding. The University allowed select temporary smoking areas on its facilities for one year, as well as allowing smoking for academic research.

According to the University Health Services’ college health assessment survey, 2.7 percent of UT students reported smoking at least one cigarrette every day of the month. The American Cancer Association reports that 19 percent of the United States adult population smokes.

Psychology junior Ticiane Silva said she smokes about 10 cigarettes a day, often near Littlefield Patio Cafe, and is not planning on quitting because of the campus-wide ban. She said students who regularly meet there will likely just walk to neighboring streets to smoke between class.

“Last semester this area was pretty famous. We call it ‘The Lounge,’” Silva said. “We’ll just go to Dean Keaton now.”

University Health Services offers a mobile app and informative classes to help smokers who want to quit make the transition easier. Resources to help individuals minimize tobacco use increased through the semester.

“Although they’re offering those classes to help you quit smoking, it’s not that I want to quit and can’t,” Silva said. “I don’t want to quit. I like it.”

Marketing senior Alejandra Garcia said she’s glad the temporary location near the Red McCombs School of Business will be smoke-free because it impacts everyone passing by, not just those smoking.

“I hate passing by there,” Garcia said. “If they were somewhere else I wouldn’t even be concerned about it, but because it’s so close to where I go basically all day it does bother me. I don’t think that I should have to be succumb to second-hand smoke when I don’t even smoke.”

Howarth-Moore said although CPRIT’s requirement allowed the University to implement the policy quickly, UT had been concerned with minimizing tobacco use, including making the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium smoke-free.

“Because of the CPRIT requirement, what could’ve taken three to five years to accomplish, we had to accomplish it in months,” she said. “Looking at the future, we’re going to be a healthier institution.”

Published on January 25, 2013 as "Campus to phase out temporary smoking areas". 

I want to start off by saying that I have no problem with a tobacco ban on campus; I understand that the funding received from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is critical to continuing to perform cutting edge and potentially life-saving research here at UT, as well as the public health benefits of instituting such a ban. That being said, I find it puzzling in the extreme that CPRIT has chosen to include a ban on electronic cigarettes in its stipulation for funding.

The problem is that e-cigarettes are not a tobacco product. They traditionally contain no tar, or any known carcinogens. By contrast, cigarettes contain at least 19 known carcinogenic chemicals. There has not yet been much research on the safety or usefulness of e-cigarettes as smoking-cessation devices, due in large part to their relatively recent invention. Because of this, e-cigarettes have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a smoking-cessation device, yet I and many smokers I know have had great success in cutting back on smoking or quitting completely through its use.

In e-cigarettes, I and many others see great potential for a tool that helps people quit smoking, preserves public health by reducing second-hand smoke and allows persons the freedom to continue to consume nicotine in a relatively safe manner. CPRIT is fighting against against its own interests and the interests of University students by including e-cigarettes under its stipulations for funding. Perhaps a portion of the research money which the University will receive should go to investigating cancer prevention methods that new technology create for us recently but are not yet fully understood.

Justin Hillsmith
Psychology senior

The University’s tobacco use policy went up in smoke Wednesday afternoon with an email — with the spelling properly checked — ­declaring that the campus is now 100-percent tobacco-free. The move is a progressive step forward for UT, and the way it will be implemented reflects careful consideration of how the change will affect various members of the community.

In January, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) changed its rules to require that any institution receiving grant money be totally tobacco-free. Rightly recognizing the importance of cancer research at UT, administrators responded with a new policy that restricts tobacco use in almost all circumstances. Notably, an exception will be made for a number of designated smoking zones to ease the transition process to a tobacco-free campus. These zones will expire in March 2013, according to the new tobacco-use policy available on the UT website.

The new policy is also notable for its enforcement mechanism. Thankfully avoiding the nightmare of UT Police Department’s issuing $10 tickets for lighting up, administrators recognized that the change will require cooperation and that compliance with it will be best achieved by gentle reminders along with a gradual cultural change.

But while the new policy is generally considerate and forward-looking, the reason for its revision is somewhat worrisome. Texas voters established CPRIT in 2007 to “fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas,” according to CPRIT’s website. Of the members of CPRIT’s Oversight Committee — the group that ultimately approved the decision to attach strings to the public money — nine are appointed and the remaining two are the Texas Attorney General and the Comptroller of Public Accounts.

That this largely unelected board has the power to dictate far-reaching University policy when its primary purpose is ostensibly to determine which cancer research grant applications to fund is disturbing. The making of higher education policy is better left to groups such as the UT System Board of Regents and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Nevertheless, a tobacco-free campus will go a long way to further the University’s healthy, environmentally-conscious community deeply committed to fighting cancer.

It seems UT gave in to the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas’ (CPRIT) blackmail concerning a possible $88-million cancer research grant for next year in exchange for banning tobacco. A better avenue would have been for all colleges and departments at UT that conduct cancer research to build their own place. They could make sure to satisfy all the requirements without affecting the University at large — and avoid having to justify it with a righteous argument about wellness. Any Texan would see the University’s actions as dishonest and un-American.

Remember, this policy is affecting those with a cultivated mind or seeking one, which is in itself the sole guardian of good. A campus should not need a smoke-free policy, but if it does, I wonder if CPRIT is questioning the minds of our academic and administrative staff and students. Let’s face it: Requiring such policy is in complete contradiction of its primary mandate, which is, according to the CPRIT website, to “attract, create or expand research capabilities of public or private institutions of higher education.”

Elyes Benhamou
Staff, Red McCombs School of Business

A student smokes outside of the Communications plaza Thursday evening. The university could lose millions of research dollars from one of its top research funders if it does not adopt a tobacco-free policy by March 1.

Photo Credit: Shea Carley | Daily Texan Staff

Fumes from the University’s tobacco policy have ignited conversation over the future of the substance on UT grounds.

Because of a new provision from one of the University’s top research funders, UT will need to enact a tobacco-free policy or risk losing millions of research dollars.

The Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, a voter-mandated organization that awards millions of research dollars each year to entities pursuing cancer research, released a statement on Feb. 2 stating it will now require all current and future grantees to create tobacco-free workplaces as a condition for accepting the Institute’s funds. UT currently receives approximately $31 million for cancer research from the Institute and is applying for $88 million this year.

The Institute has given UT until March 1 to make appropriate policy changes.

In a campus-wide email on Wednesday, University officials said they will be meeting with various organizations on campus — including Student Government, Faculty Council and Staff Council — over the next two weeks to discuss policy options. University spokeswoman Adrienne Howarth-Moore said losing this money would be detrimental to the University’s research endeavors.

Howarth-Moore said if the University adopts a tobacco-free policy by March 1, it will seek to support current tobacco users by providing education and resources.

“Education, communication and helping people understand the reason behind the change is going to be a challenge,” Howarth-Moore said. “We don’t just have a focus on research, but cancer research. We want to be able to eradicate cancer.”

If adopted, the smoking ban will also restrict smoking and tobacco during times of sporting events and tailgates, Howarth-Moore said. Exceptions will only occur in special circumstances, such as when tobacco is used for research or as a prop in a fine arts production.

Current UT policy on tobacco only addresses smoking tobacco, which is not allowed in any University-owned or leased building or vehicle, but is allowed on campus as long as it is 20 feet away from a building entrance. UT-Arlington, UT-Brownsville and the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio are currently tobacco-free. Austin Community College, Huston-Tillotson University and Texas State University all banned tobacco use on campus last year.

In March 2011, UT President William Powers, Jr. said he opposed a campus-wide ban on smoking during an address to Staff Council. Powers said such a ban would overstep the limits a University should impose on its community.

“What we’re doing is saying we are going to limit the freedom of the person who wants to smoke for the benefit of the people who don’t want to be in a smoke-filled office or room,” Powers said in the address, according to a March 2011 Daily Texan article.

Student Government passed a resolution in 2011 declaring UT to become generally smoke-free campus over a period of seven years. The resolution called for the creation of a taskforce to decide policy implementation and an expansion of the University Health Services student smoking cessation program “Quitters” to extend to faculty and staff. SG and the Student Organization Safety Board recently co-sponsored “Tobacco Talks,” a series of conversations with professionals and students on campus to discuss the negative effects of tobacco.

Philip Huang, medical director for the Austin-Travis County health and human services department, spoke at Tobacco Talks on Thursday and said many entities around Austin have implemented tobacco-free policies, including City of Austin libraries, Capital Metro and Austin Parks and Recreation centers. Huang said 70 percent of people surveyed by Travis County said they wanted to quit smoking and 60 percent of all litter in 32 Austin parks comes from tobacco, equaling to approximately 23,000 cigarette butts.

Huang said a tobacco-free policy is a step in the right direction for UT and that in four years incoming students will know no other policy.

“A lot of it is changing social norms,” Huang said. “A lot of people put up with other peoples’ smoke but they hate it. People have more of a right to breathe clean air than smokers have the right to smoke.”

Alfred McAlister, public health adjunct associate professor, said the Institute’s decision will encourage administrators to consider a new tobacco policy. McAlister advised the UT Texas Public Health student organization in conducting a recent survey to gauge student opinion of smoking on campus.

Of the 1,551 respondents, 77 percent indicated they want a stronger tobacco policy at UT. Among the people who identified as smokers and took the survey, approximately 33 percent said they wanted stricter limits on tobacco use.

“I imagine the survey results will convince President Powers that there is a lot more support for a new tobacco policy than he might have supposed,” McAlister said. “It’s been a bit embarrassing for this University to be one of the last schools that’s not tobacco free.”

McAlister said some of the benefits of a tobacco-free campus would include less exposure to second-hand smoke and less tobacco litter. He said a ban would also help encourage smokers to quit and prevent some students from starting to smoke.

Thomas Haviland, public health senior and president of the UT Texas Public Health Organization, said there is a definite possibility UT will implement a tobacco-free policy on campus. Haviland said he has seen people violating the current policy all over campus and smoking within 20 feet of buildings, some of which contain ashtrays five feet away from their entrance.

Haviland said even though the Institute’s decision plays a huge part in the administration’s actions, the issue has been building up and needed to be addressed.

“They had to do something,” Haviland said. “On top of student desire, health benefits and financial savings, a lot of people on campus really do want it.”