Next January Austin Community College will join the ranks of more than 500 colleges and universities by becoming a smoke-free institution.
While ACC is already smoke-free inside its buildings, the policy will prohibit tobacco-based products on ACC campuses and in ACC-owned vehicles. Officials at the institution concluded the alternative option of redesigning facilities to include designated smoking areas was unfeasible because of state budget cuts.
Student Government passed a resolution in March that expressed their desire to make UT a generally smoke-free campus over a seven year period, with exceptions to smoking at games and in certain areas. The resolution called for the creation of a University-wide task force to decide on policy implementation and an extension of the free smoking cessation program, “Quitters,” offered by University Health Services to include faculty and staff.
Some other University groups have debated the possibility of a smoking ban, but administrators have not indicated any ban is likely at UT.
In an address to Staff Council last March, UT President William Powers Jr. said he opposes a campus-wide ban on smoking because it would overstep the limits a university should impose on its community.
“What we’re doing is saying we are going to limit the freedom of the person who wants to smoke, for the benefit of the people who don’t want to be in a smoke-filled office or room,” Powers said during the address, according to The Daily Texan.
Liberal Arts representative John Lawler said a major issue of the legislation was the question of how UT was going to implement this ban and whether people would follow it.
“ACC has several campuses and logistical [questions],” Lawler said. “[This ban] shows that a lot of concerns raised with the issue of a smoke-free campus are not that much of a concern.”
While UT has still not implemented a smoking ban, University Health Services plans to launch a new web-based tobacco cessation tool to help students who wish to quit smoking. The School of Public Health teamed up with UHS to develop the tool. UHS manager Susan Hochman said the division hopes to launch the new service by the end of the fall semester, but will continue to support students wishing to stop smoking with the “Quitters” program and other resources.
“Research shows that web-based smoking cessation instruments, especially when paired with telephone counseling, are effective tools to help individuals become tobacco free,” Hochman said.
Thomas Haviland, president of anti-smoking organization Texas Public Health, said the ACC ban demonstrates Austin can stand behind a smoke-free environment.
“ACC is not the only one to beat us to the ban,” Haviland said. “It just gives us more motivation to work harder to try to make the campus tobacco free.”