UH to Enact Tobacco-Use Policy on June 1

The University of Houston will become a tobacco-free campus beginning June 1, 2013, except for designated areas, which will allow the use of tobacco products for one year from the policy’s start date.

UH’s Tobacco-Free Campus Policy, an initiative of the UH Tobacco Task Force (TTF), is a positive and health-directed initiative. It is part of UH’s commitment to providing a healthy and sustainable environment for everyone in the UH community.

The new policy bans the use of all tobacco products in University buildings, University-owned buildings and on University grounds, including parking areas, sidewalks, walkways and University-affiliated parking facilities, except in the 20 designated tobacco-use areas.

The policy applies to all employees, students, University affiliates, contractors and visitors and is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week policy for the UH campus and the UH Energy Research Park (ERP). It applies to everyone visiting the UH campus, including people attending athletic events, artistic performances and non-UH functions.

The policy applies only to the UH campus and ERP and does not affect any other entity in the UH System. The policy bans all forms of tobacco, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes (hookahs), bidis, kreteks, electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, and any other non-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved nicotine delivery devices.

UH also has launched a new website  - www.uh.edu/tobaccofree - that contains all of the information about the new tobacco ban policy, including a map of designated smoking areas as well as information about UH’s tobacco cessation services for the UH community.

In the past few years, a number of UH students and others have been advocating for a smoke-free policy for the campus.

Additionally, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) requires grant recipients to have tobacco-free policies in and around all locations where CPRIT-funded research is conducted. UH is a  recipient of more than $9.4 million in funding from CPRIT. Funding from this state agency is imperative to important cancer research activities at UH.

Last year, UH established the TTF to draft a tobacco-free policy that was distributed to stakeholder representatives across campus for their review. UH President Renu Khator approved the new policy in the summer of 2012.

UH is not requiring anyone to quit using tobacco products. The new policy prohibits the use of tobacco products on campus and at the ERP, expect in designated areas.

Everyone on UH property is expected to adhere to the tobacco-free policy. Enforcement of this policy will be achieved primarily through education, awareness and cooperation.

Once the ban in enacted, UH community members are allowed to respectfully inform a person using a tobacco product about the ban and request that he/she comply, unless that person is in a designated tobacco-use area.

The TTF website includes a portal for individuals to report violations of the policy. Enforcement of the policy is limited to a standardized e-mail message, containing a policy reminder and information about available tobacco cessation services. This e-mail message will be sent to individuals who are reported via the TTF website portal for violation of the campus tobacco policy.

The TTF Oversight Committee will review the number of violations reported via the TTF website portal on an annual basis to study the effectiveness of the tobacco-free program.

The temporary tobacco-use locations will be available for one year from the June 1, 2013, start date, at which time a review will determine if any of them or all of them will continue to be in use.

This is an important health-related initiative for the UH community. In 2010, the U.S. Surgeon General Report concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. The American College Health Association Guidelines advocate for a campus-wide tobacco-free environment.

UH also is mindful that the policy marks a significant change for tobacco users on campus. UH encourages anyone who wants to quit using tobacco products to visit UH’s tobacco cessation resources page for access to help.

UH invites everyone to visit the new website, which contains the full text of the official policy, an FAQ on the new policy, a map of the designated smoking areas, information about UH’s tobacco cessation programs and other useful information.