Last Light Up: Smoking restrictions begin June 1


Starting June 1, UTSA will make all of its campuses smoke-free and tobacco-free environments. This process will be carried out by the UTSA Tobacco-Free Task Force, who will make all three UTSA campuses smoke-free by June 1, 2014, according to official statements by UTSA Today.
“The UTSA Staff Council has worked for several years for common ground on a tobacco-free
and/or smoking ban on campus. The Council has also discussed how UTSA might implement the new policy to achieve the best possible outcome,” said the UTSA Staff Council Chair Gregory Frieden.
“Ultimately, this is a health issue. We want all faculty, staff and students to be healthy.”
Changes to UTSA’s smoking policy have been ongoing since 2012. As a result of several research grants received from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), several buildings on campus became smoke-free areas on Aug. 31, 2012 due to the CPRIT policy, which requires buildings housing CPRIT-funded research to be smoking-free. Buildings affected include the Biotechnology Building, Sciences and Engineering Building, Applied Engineering and Technology Building on the UTSA Main Campus and the Monterey Building on the UTSA Downtown Campus.
Along with those changes, President Ricardo Romo also established the UTSA Tobacco-Free Task Force, whose goal was to update UTSA’s guidelines on smoking in the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP).
“Many state institutions have been tobacco-free for many years. I believe that as a state institution, we should do everything in our power to assist our students, faculty and staff to strive for healthy habits,” said Frieden. “I believe that this is the right direction for UTSA.”
Dianna White, a writing composition professor, commented, “This is not about people’s health, it is about the university’s perception in the research committee and it’s about money — money for research and how they (UTSA) look when people come on campus and see people smoking.”
According to UTSA Today, the task-force’s top recommendation was addressing the smoking ban through a transitory period, during which students will be allowed to smoke on permitted surface parking lots, which exclude the Ximenes Ave., Ford Ave. and Laurel Village lots.
“While the Student Government Association (SGA) does support President Romo and his decision making for the university, we also recognize that the student body was split on this issue,” said Zack Dunn, who was recently elected President of UTSA’s Student Government Association. “In order to effectively represent all students, SGA believes that we should allow tobacco free electronic cigarettes as well as having designated smoking areas on campus that are strictly enforced. This would give those residential students, regular student smokers and those faculty and staff who choose to smoke, some options to work with,” Dunn said.
“It’s a good policy because when you walk out of a building, breathing the smoke is nasty; it’ll be nice to breathe clean air,” sophomore accounting major Megan Murray said last semester.
The task-force’s other recommendation is expanding and clarifying which tobacco products will be prohibited on campus in the HOP. The new handbook will prohibit all forms of tobacco products, including cigarettes (herbal, electronic or otherwise), hookah water pipes and smokeless tobacco.
Although some administrators and students have come out in favor of the ban, there are many students and faculty who are less optimistic about a tobacco-free campus.
“When I came here you could smoke in the classrooms, and that’s a little extreme,” White said. “But when you’re out in the open I think that’s infringing on rights. When I first came here it was a commuter school, so students came to class and then they left. I’m afraid that [students and faculty] are going to lose our sense of community. I’m going to come and do just what I have for my job, then I’m going to leave.”
“It’s unethical to take away someone’s choice to smoke or not,” communication major Joey Cabrera said in September. “I’m going to continue smoking regardless.”
Speaking again for SGA, Dunn continued, “We understand there are many perspectives that come into play with the administration’s decision, such as our research funding or building regulations, but we believe the allowance of tobacco free electronic cigarettes on top of enforceable designated areas is the best compromise to this situation.”
Starting June 1, 2013, a transitional group will be present to ease UTSA staff and students into the new policy. From that time until May 31, 2014, smoking will be restricted to locations outside a 100-foot perimeter around buildings, structures and plazas.
The UTSA police department declined to comment on specifics of the policy and its enforcement. However, a discussion at the April 5 Faculty Senate meeting focused on the probable policy of self-enforcement.
At the meeting, Misty Sailors, Secretary of the General Faculty, cited the UT Austin policy: “Enforcement of the policy will be achieved primarily through education, awareness and a sprit of cooperation.”
As of June 1, 2014, UTSA will become a smoke-free campus, with the exceptions of approved tobacco research projects or authorized performances utilizing tobacco in its artistic production.