The University of Texas at Austin Kicks the Habit

It's official. The University of Texas at Austin is tobacco-free.

Yesterday the university received word that the University of Texas System approved the tobacco-free campus policy making it effective April 9, 2012. The tobacco-free policy prohibits use of any tobacco products in university buildings and on university grounds within the state of Texas, including parking areas, sidewalks, walkways, attached parking structures 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 decision to accelerate a change in the institution's no smoking policy came after the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced in February that it would be tying future research funds to tobacco-free policies. The university receives about $30 million in research grants from CPRIT and may apply for as much as $80 million more in the future.

"The university was already headed down a tobacco-free path," says Adrienne Howarth-Moore, director of Human Resource Services. "CPRIT was an impetus to accomplish this quickly."

During the first year of implementing the policy, temporary tobacco use locations have been established on the main campus and at the Pickle Research Campus. These temporary locations will only be available through Feb. 28, 2013, and comply with CPRIT requirements.

Vice President of University Operations Pat Clubb explains that the university will rely on education to enforce the new rules.

"This is an institution of higher education, so it's logical that we emphasize education, awareness and a spirit of cooperation in enforcing the policy," said Clubb. "Much can be accomplished with signage and politely reminding members of our community and guests that we are a tobacco-free campus."

The university will also provide support to individuals who decide to quit using tobacco. The Counseling and Mental Health Center in University Health Services and the HealthPoint program in Human Resource Services offer cessation classes at no or low cost, and the UT Select insurance plans now cover tobacco cessation counseling using network providers.

"The U.S. has made tremendous progress reducing smoking in recent decades, but tobacco use remains the number one cause of avoidable death and serious disease. The goal of the new policy is to help create a healthy, sustainable environment for our students, staff and faculty, and we're proud to join other universities across the state and nation who have made their campuses tobacco-free," said Dr. William Sage, vice provost for health affairs for the University of Texas System. "You might say just this one time that what STOPS here changes the world."