Frequently Asked Questions

Tobacco-free Campus: The University of Texas at Austin

Select a question below to show the answer:

The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) was smoke-free in buildings for many years. What led to the expansion of the policy in 2012 to cover all university grounds and all tobacco use?

The “No Smoking” policy was replaced with a Tobacco-free Campus policy on April 9, 2012 to preserve funding for cancer research which is vital to the core mission of our university and to compliment other university initiatives including the passage of a Student Government resolution in 2011 to become a tobacco-free campus, our sustainable green building design standards, opening a new medical school and adopting a campus culture of wellness for student, faculty, staff and visitors.

What cancer research funding would have been impacted without an expanded policy?

UT Austin receives research funding from multiple sources including the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). CPRIT announced a change in their grant policies in 2012 requiring the certification of a tobacco-free policy for entities receiving CPRIT funds [PDF*].

What are the boundaries of the university for the purposes of defining university property?

The boundaries include any property owned, operated, leased, occupied, or controlled by UT Austin. For purposes of the Tobacco-free Campus policy, this includes property in the state of Texas including but not limited to all buildings and structures, sidewalks, parking lots, walkways, attached parking structures and university owned vehicles.

How will the policy be enforced?

We are an institution of higher education therefore education is key to implementing this policy. We make people aware of the tobacco-free environment through electronic messaging, signage, notices in event programs and marketing. An explanation of the tobacco-free campus policy is communicated to prospective and enrolling students and new employees. Additionally, we ask event planners to include about the policy in materials distributed to all outside groups that use university facilities.

The expectation is that persons will voluntarily comply with the policy. It is the responsibility of everyone on campus to politely inform others of the policy and ask that they put out their cigarette and/or stop using tobacco products on campus.

Does the policy apply to the Dell Pediatric Research Institute and the Pickle Research Campus?

Yes. The policy includes the university main campus and all other buildings or facilities owned, operated, leased, occupied, or controlled by UT Austin in the state of Texas. Currently, there is CPRIT funded research occurring at both DPRI and PRC.

Does the policy apply to the Marine Science Institute, McDonald Observatory and other satellite locations?

Public access spaces and buildings are subject to the Tobacco-free Campus policy; however, there is an approved exception that allows for tobacco use on the exterior grounds of employer required lodging, as applicable. Tobacco use on the grounds must be at least 25 feet from any air intake, gate, entryway, arch or doorway leading into a residence building.

Does the Tobacco-free Campus policy apply to university apartments?

The policy applies to all university residence halls and apartments owned, operated, leased, occupied, or controlled by the university on the main campus. There is an approved exception that allows for tobacco use on the exterior grounds of graduate housing remote from the main campus, e.g. Brackenridge Complex. No smoking is allowed inside any buildings regardless of location and tobacco use on the grounds must be at least 25 feet from any air intake, gate, entryway, arch or doorway leading into a residence building.

Can persons smoke on city streets or sidewalks that cross the campus?

UT Austin has both university and city streets. The use of tobacco, including smoking, is prohibited on all university owned or controlled streets and sidewalks. The Tobacco-free Campus policy does not apply to city streets or sidewalks that are not owned or controlled by UT Austin.

What about exceptions to the policy?

Narrowly defined exceptions allow for tobacco use in sponsored research projects, in educational or clinical instruction, for artistic performance in a university sponsored event and on the exterior grounds of graduate housing and employer required lodging in locations other than main campus, e.g. McDonald’s Observatory. A Tobacco-free Campus Advisory Group monitors the policy and evaluates requests for exceptions.

Does the Tobacco-free Campus policy apply at university sanctioned events or sporting activities occurring off campus property?

The Tobacco-free Campus policy applies only to university owned, operated, leased, occupied, or controlled property. Events or activities scheduled elsewhere are bound by the policies or rules of the event coordinator or property manager.

Does the policy apply to visitors to campus?

Yes. Organizers and attendees at public events, such as conferences, meetings, public lectures, social events, cultural events, and sporting events using university facilities are required to abide by the Tobacco-free Campus policy. Organizers of such events are responsible for communicating the policy to attendees.

Is the university requiring that people quit using tobacco products?

No. However, we are encouraging current tobacco users to explore this option. The university is committed to supporting all students and employees who wish to stop using tobacco products with cessation resources. Students, faculty, and staff choosing to continue using tobacco products may do so, but only on their own time and in areas not owned, operated, leased, occupied, or controlled by UT Austin.

What resources are available to help those who want to quit using tobacco products?

Assistance to students, faculty, and staff to overcome addiction to tobacco products is available by University Health Services and the Counseling and Mental Health Center for students and Human Resource Services, HealthPoint Wellness and EAP Programs for staff and faculty. See the Tobacco Cessation Resources page of this website for a list of available resources.

Will the use of e-cigarettes be permitted?

No. The FDA does not consider e-cigarettes to be a safe nicotine delivery system or smoking cessation strategy and their use is prohibited on university property for purposes of this policy and as required by CPRIT. However, other forms of approved nicotine replacement therapy such as gum and patches are available in the campus Forty Acres Pharmacy located in the Student Services Building and in several Division of Housing & Food Service campus stores. See FDA information on e-cigarettes.

Does the Tobacco-free Campus policy prohibit the use of chewing tobacco on campus?

Yes. The use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco and snuff, is prohibited on all university property or in university vehicles for purposes of this policy and as required by CPRIT.

Are clove cigarettes (Bidis or Kreteks) permitted?

No. The use of clove cigarettes is prohibited by the Tobacco-free Campus policy and as required by CPRIT. The CDC reports that smoking clove cigarettes is associated with an increased risk for lung damage. See CDC information on clove cigarettes.

Will the use of tobacco-free hookahs be allowed on campus?

No. Hookahs, sometimes called water pipes, are prohibited by the Tobacco-free Campus policy and as required by CPRIT. While some tobacco-free smoking materials are available for use in hookahs, there is insufficient research data to document that they are safe for use and that they will not pose a health risk to others. See CDC information on hookahs.

Are there designated smoking or tobacco use areas?

No. Designated smoking or tobacco use locations are not available. As part of our transition plan to become a tobacco free campus, temporary use locations were in place for one year. Use of those temporary locations ended on February 28, 2013.

Are there signs to tell people they can’t use tobacco?

Notices bearing the message “Tobacco-Free Campus” and signs with the international symbol for tobacco-free or similar are posted at major university vehicular, pedestrian and building entrances. However, the Tobacco-free Campus policy applies to all university property whether or not a notice or sign is posted.

What will the university do if there are reported concerns by owners of property adjacent to campus involving the accumulation of tobacco litter?

We will work with business owners and other property owners adjacent to university properties to address their concerns about the possibility of litter being left behind by tobacco users from our campus.

What if people don't abide by the policy?

For visitors, we believe reminders about the tobacco-free campus will be important and the university will provide messaging on university affiliated materials, websites, vendor contracts and for special events. For students and employees, we expect cooperation with a policy that directly supports our ongoing research endeavors and other university initiatives. The university will evaluate reports of repeated concerns and implement actions for resolution using existing methods of enforcement for university policy violations.

What should I do if I see someone using tobacco on university property?

The following are suggested scripts to use as a helpful resource:

Example Script #1:
Situation: You see a person using tobacco products on UT Austin property.
Response: "Hello. I want to make you aware that we are a tobacco-free campus. Tobacco products are prohibited on our grounds. We would appreciate if you would not use tobacco products while visiting our campus. Thank you for your cooperation."

Example Script #2:
Question: "Where am I allowed to smoke?"
Response: "If you need to smoke or use tobacco products you will need to leave the campus. You can visit our online campus maps to help you identify university property at www.utexas.edu/maps/. We do have nicotine gum and patches available for you to purchase at the campus pharmacy located in the Student Services Building and in several campus convenience stores."

Example Script #3:
For registration, pre-admission, and office staff who are speaking to students and families prior to a UT Austin campus visit: "I'd like to let you know in advance that our campus is a Tobacco-Free environment. We do have nicotine gum and patches available for you to purchase at the campus pharmacy located in the Student Services Building and in several campus convenience stores. Tobacco cessation resources are available for enrolled students and staff and faculty."

Have other universities implemented a tobacco-free campus?

Yes, some as early as 2003, and the number continues to increase. There are over 600 college and university campuses all across the United States that have enacted 100% smoke- or tobacco-free campuses. In the UT System, Arlington, Brownsville, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Southwestern are all tobacco-free. In the Central Texas area, Texas State University, Huston-Tillotson University, and Austin Community College are all tobacco free.

 

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