About The University of Texas at Austin Tobacco-free Campus policy
On April 9, 2012, The University of Texas at Austin became a tobacco-free campus. The use of any tobacco products is prohibited in university buildings and on university grounds within the state of Texas, including parking areas and structures, sidewalks, walkways, and university owned buildings. The full text of the policy including the definition for tobacco products and approved exceptions is available on the University Policies website.
The Tobacco-free Campus policy is part of the university’s commitment to creating a healthy and sustainable environment for all members of our campus community, and is designed to be positive and health directed. Individuals noticing violations of the policy should strive to be non-confrontational and respectful to tobacco users when communicating our policy. Additionally, tobacco users are expected to adhere to the policy and likewise be respectful to ex-tobacco users and non-tobacco users. Enforcement of the policy will be achieved primarily through education, awareness and a spirit of cooperation.
The university is not requiring faculty, staff and students to quit using tobacco products; however, we do expect the policy to be followed while on university property, and we are offering support to our students and employees who wish to stop using tobacco products.
Why we went tobacco free
The path to becoming tobacco-free first began when the University of Texas at Austin adopted a Non-smoking policy in 1991 that banned smoking in all university buildings. In 2002, the Non-smoking policy was expanded to ban smoking within 20 feet of building entrances, open windows, ventilation systems, and indoor or open-air athletic facilities including the Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium, Disch-Falk Field and the Frank C. Erwin Center.
Then, in 2011, a survey of the UT Austin community endorsed by Texas Public Health found that 77 percent of the 1,551 respondents supported a change that would further restrict smoking on campus. In that same year, the university Student Government passed a resolution to create a tobacco-free campus. The decision to expand to a tobacco-free campus was the next logical step in our pursuit of a campus culture of wellness.
However, the impetus for accelerating our decision came in February 2012, when the Cancer Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced future funding of research would be contingent on certification of an entity’s adopted tobacco-free policies. The university is a recipient of CPRIT funds for important cancer research activities and the preservation of those funds as a premier research institution is imperative to our research mission.
A policy committee was formed to research our options for becoming compliant with future CPRIT requests for proposals and to draft a policy for UT System approval. After meeting with stakeholder representatives across campus, the policy was created and subsequently approved by UT System on April 9, 2012.
Important facts about tobacco use
The 2010 Surgeon General’s Report concludes there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. “Any exposure to tobacco smoke—even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke—is harmful.” In addition, the American College Health Association Guidelines now advocate for a campus-wide tobacco-free environment.
Cigarette use has long been known to be a primary cause of lung cancer but the list of other diseases attributed to or aggravated by tobacco use continues to grow as the body of research into the health impacts of tobacco use expands. The list of related conditions now includes but is not limited to oral cancer, heart disease, emphysema, myeloid leukemia, Buerger’s disease, cataracts, cervical cancer, kidney and pancreatic cancer, pneumonia, periodontitis and stomach cancer. In addition to the human toll of tobacco use, there is also a financial burden to the state of Texas including:
- $5.83 billion annual healthcare expenditures due to tobacco use
- $1.6 billion State Medicaid expenditures due to tobacco use
- $317.6 million annual healthcare expenditures due to secondhand smoke
- $6.44 billion productivity losses due to death
- Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Toll of Tobacco in Texas
Tobacco-free policies can have a positive impact in reducing adverse impacts from tobacco use. According to recent research, the following benefits have been attributed to the implementation of tobacco-free policies:
- Decrease smoking initiation among young adults
- Decrease progression to established smoking
- Increase the probability of young adult smoking cessation
- Promote a tobacco free norm which can influence adult smoking behavior
- Lead to less smoking among adults in the workplace
- Employees who work in workplaces with smoke or tobacco-free policies are almost twice as likely to stop using tobacco as those who work where tobacco use is allowed
Other benefits of a tobacco-free policy include a reduction in fire hazards and cleaner grounds and air that support our university sustainability efforts.
Need help quitting? We’re here for you
The university acknowledges this is a big change for tobacco users on campus. While the institution is proud to be tobacco-free, sustaining a healthy environment for those who work, study, and visit here, we also are mindful of the members of our community who will be personally challenged by this policy. That’s why the university has increased its commitment to faculty, staff, and students who want to quit. Visit the tobacco cessation resources page for information on no and low cost assistance.