Many universities may soon be looking to Texas State’s discount cigarette online ban as an example to implement similar restrictions on their own campuses.

University officials will present an updated tobacco-free campus report at the Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 16 and 17. The board provides centralized support in areas such as finance and academic program planning for the Texas State University System member institutions.

Texas State and each of the seven other institutions within the system will present information about progress toward a tobacco-free policy to the regents. The report includes topics such as the processes behind the proposed or actualized implementation and enforcement and educational efforts.

Dr. Emilio Carranco, director of the Student Health Center, said the regents instructed all of the system member institutions to have tobacco-free policies in place by June of this year.

Smoking was first banned inside Texas State owned or leased buildings and vehicles in 2000. The Quad, the outdoor areas near Alkek Library and the Academic Services Building breezeway became smoke-free seven years ago.

Texas State was the first university in the TSUS to implement a tobacco-free policy which went into effect on Aug. 1, 2011. Carranco said the university was the largest institution in the state to implement a smoke-free policy. He said a few community colleges and smaller institutions in Texas such as Huston-Tillotson University put similar policies into place before Texas State did.

Kathryn Weiser, assistant dean of students, said the first step to following the tobacco-free policy is to remind the university community members about it. Repetitive reminders can result in student referral to the Dean of Students Office. Faculty member violations are reported to the Office of the Provost and staff members consult with the Joanne Smith, vice president for Student Affairs, for any referrals.

Weiser said students will have an educational conversation about the purpose of the online cigarettes ban and possible consequences for disobeying the policy upon referral to the Dean of Students Office. She said students will then be sent to the Office of Student Justice to enter a discipline process.

“The university is still going through the paradigm shift because a majority of students are returners,” Weiser said. “They are used to the way the campus allowed smoking cigarettes in designated areas. We are going through the educational part much more this school year.”

Carranco said the University Police Department received 117 reports of smoking cigarettes violations on campus last semester. He said five students, no faculty members and one staff member were referred to the respective department officials for repeated violations of the cigarettes store ban.

“We have primarily pursued an educational strategy in this first semester so that people really would have an opportunity to comply with this new policy,” Carranco said.

An employer could save approximately $960 in excess illness costs per year from an employee who quits smoking cigarettes according to information from the Texas School Safety Center.

Julie Eckert, assistant director of the Student Health Center, said tobacco is a component in all the leading causes of death in the country due to its contributions to heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Eckert said a 2010 assessment showed eight percent of Texas State students were identified as everyday smokers.

The Oversight Committee of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas approved a rule at the Jan. 18 meeting forcing entities to be certified as tobacco-free to receive $25,000 or more in funds from the organization per fiscal year.

Several establishments, including the University of Texas – Austin, have received multi-million dollars in grants from the research institute in recent years.

The rule applies to all grant proposals submitted to the institute as a response to proposal requests on or after March 1. Entities funded by the CPRIT must comply with the provisions by Aug. 31 or by the first year after the grant was awarded depending on which date is later.

UT has received approximately $30 million from the institute and aims to earn several more million in additional funding. UT officials are currently considering whether to implement a campus tobacco-free policy to remain eligible for research institute funding.

Carranco said the research institute’s decision to give funding only to tobacco-free entities is an example of how the general public on a larger scale is becoming less tolerant of smoking cigarettes. He said there is well-documented scientific evidence which shows significant health risks attributed to tobacco.

Carranco said the university received contact from UT and other institutions about our process of implementing a tobacco-free policy over the past few months.

“I think Texas State certainly encouraged some other institutions to start looking at this change,” he said. “The university took the lead on (becoming tobacco-free) and went through the change very successfully. I truly believe we’re going to have a much healthier campus because of that.”

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