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To Keep Research Funding, Universities Mull Tobacco Ban  

Jump to full article: The Texas Tribune , 2012-02-19
Author: Reeve Hamilton


Despite polls showing overwhelming public support and endorsements from celebrities like Lance Armstrong, efforts to establish a statewide workplace smoking ban have fallen flat in recent sessions of the Texas Legislature. But a state agency is finding that the billions of dollars it has at its disposal may allow it to be more effective in getting comprehensive tobacco-free policies established -- most notably, at university campuses.

University administrators on campuses around the state are mulling campus-wide tobacco-free policies as a result of new rules established by the Cancer Research Prevention Institute of Texas. In January, the institute's oversight committee adopted a policy that requires grant recipients to have policies prohibiting tobacco use in buildings and structures where financed research activities are occurring, as well as at the outdoor areas immediately adjacent to those buildings. The grant recipients must also provide smoking cessation services for community members who desire them.

For schools that pride themselves on their research function, like the University of Texas at Austin -- which has received about $30 million in grants from the institute and is hoping for $88 million more from new requests -- there is a clear financial incentive to institute changes.

"If folks have to go a little bit farther, if they have to think about having a cigarette a little bit more, we are encouraging them to smoke less -- which results in positive benefits -- or to quit all together," said Bill Gimson, the executive director of the institute.

He added that the new rule is not a response to legislative failures but is simply consistent with the institute's mandate to prevent cancer in Texas.

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