tobacco products

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Three years after banning tobacco on campus, University administrators have launched a new program to reduce the use of tobacco and alternative tobacco products among college-aged students.

“The majority of full-time smokers and tobacco users over the age of 26 started before they were that age and while they were in college,” Shelley Karn, a program director with the Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team, said. “We wanted to develop a prevention campaign to prevent them from ever even starting tobacco products. There wasn’t a comprehensive program in colleges to do this, and we wanted to change that.”

The program, Peers Against Tobacco, is one part of a multi-university project in Texas which includes schools such as Texas Tech and Texas State. The University’s Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team oversees the program, and the Texas Department of State Health services funds it. 

Peers Against Tobacco aims to decrease tobacco use among students at the 20 participating universities through different educational initiatives. According to Karn, the planning stages of the program began in September 2013 and culminated with the start of the program last month.

Karn said educating students about the full range of tobacco-based products is important because students tend to think tobacco alternatives, such as hookahs and electronic cigarettes, are not as harmful as traditional cigarettes.

Phil Huang, the medical director and health authority for the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department, said unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigs and hookahs are not FDA regulated, so consumers cannot be certain about how safe the products really are. 

“Many [tobacco alternatives] are made overseas in China, so there’s no knowing what’s really being put in the product,” said Huang, who is also on the FDA’s Tobacco Product Advisory committee. “It’s not just harmless water vapor like they try to advertise.”

Peers Against Tobacco will soon launch a student-led media campaign, do research involving local tobacco retailers and develop an online prevention curriculum — which each college within the University can implement.

According to Alicia Graf, senior project coordinator for the program, two student leaders and a supervising administrator selected at each university will evaluate the effectiveness of the prevention program at the end of the spring semester. 

“We’ve gotten some push back [about the program] from the vaping community through social media because they say vaping is safer,” Gras said. “We want to show that all tobacco products are dangerous and that there’s a lot we don’t know about certain products that a lot of people use.”

Horns Up: University tries to keep us informed about snow

Last week, the joy of the year’s second snow day was slightly hindered by the University’s apparent inability to let us know ahead of time that campus would be closed. A text message at 8:20am announcing a delay until noon is hardly helpful to students who have 8am classes, and a follow-up text at 11:26am announcing a closure for the day is just as bad for commuters already on the roads. So we appreciate the fact that the University sent us not one, but two emails this afternoon, in which she advised the entire UT community that there might be severe weather over the next two days — although a slim chance of light freezing drizzle is hardly what most of us would consider severe. Nevertheless, horns up to whomever makes these weather-related decisions. If a light dusting of snow or a sprinkle of freezing drizzle does indeed bring the entire city to a grinding halt once again, it’s nice to be prepared.

Horns Up: CVS to stop selling tobacco products in stores

On Wednesday, the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain, CVS, announced that it will stop selling tobacco products in the next few months — a bold move considering tobacco sales are responsible for $2 billion of the company’s yearly revenue. According to numerous news outlets, CVS explicitly cited health reasons for its decision, claiming that removing tobacco products is an important step as the company increasingly commits to providing more healthcare services. A recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that the country still spends $132 billion to $175 billion annually on treatment for smoking-related diseases, and claims that tobacco is still the nation’s leading cause of preventable, premature death. Given the substantial toll that drugs take on our nation, it’s no surprise that health care groups and President Barack Obama alike have praised CVS for the decision. Needless to say, we agree wholeheartedly. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Two UT professors are among several nationally chosen scholars to analyze trends in young people’s tobacco use and how those trends correlate to targeted marketing.

Alexandra Loukas, a kinesiology and health education professor, and Keryn Pasch, a kinesiology and health education assistant professor, are part of the newly founded Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth and Young Adults. The center is housed at the UT School of Public Health, which received a grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health for its research. 

The research will include surveying UT students about their tobacco usage over a period of six months and will also document tobacco marketing around campus.

“We’ll be documenting all outdoor tobacco marketing … and also marketing at the point of sale, such as at convenience stores, gas stations, etc.,” Loukas said. “We’ll also document advertising and promotions in the magazines and newspapers that our participants read, on the websites they visit and the direct mail they receive from tobacco companies.”

The goal of the study is not only to more closely understand the ways in which UT students are being influenced by tobacco marketing, but also to further understand the factors that can lead to long-term use of tobacco products.

“Over the past 13 years, cigarette use has been declining but use of non-cigarette alternatives is becoming increasingly more popular,” Loukas said. “Most non-cigarette alternatives are flavored. Flavored products appeal to younger, less experienced tobacco users.” 

According to Loukas, this sort of marketing might introduce young college students to tobacco through seemingly harmless alternatives and cause them to get hooked on nicotine, leading them to cigarettes and health consequences common among smokers. 

“I don’t smoke myself but I know a few people who do,” biology junior Ashley Fenuyi said. “A lot of my friends love going to hookah bars, but I don’t think they really know the possible health effects that come from things like that.” 

Public health junior Destinee Clark noted the significance of the research.

“I think that understanding the effects that come from these things [is] important,” Clark said. “We need this information so we can make wiser decisions when it comes to tobacco.” 

The FDA and the National Insitutes of Health will use the findings of the research to influence regulation of tobacco products, which will protect the health of college students and the health of the public as a whole, Loukas said.

“Because our study is funded by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health we hope that our study can inform regulation of products that are currently unregulated,” Loukas said.

After years of heated debate over the use of tobacco on campus, UT announced Wednesday it will prohibit the use of tobacco products on all University property effective this month.

The UT Board of Regents approved the new tobacco policy on Monday, making UT the fourth institution under the UT System to implement a ban.

University spokeswoman Adrienne Howarth-Moore said people will be able to use tobacco in the 15 temporary designated areas on campus during the first year of implementation but will be required to adhere to the policy by Feb. 28, 2013. The policy prohibits the use of tobacco products on University-owned sidewalks, parking areas, walkways, attached parking structures and buildings. Tobacco will only be allowed at the temporary designated tobacco areas, and for educational or clinical purposes, fine arts productions, sponsored research and off-campus graduate housing facilities.

The University’s previous policy only prohibited smoking within buildings and required people to smoke 20 feet away building entrances.

Howarth-Moore said sidewalks adjacent to UT property, such as the sidewalks on Guadalupe Street, will not be included in the ban. The ban will also exclude sidewalks and property on Guadalupe Street, Dean Keeton Street, Red River Street and Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard.

She said the University will be removing ashtrays surrounding campus buildings in the next couple of months, launching an educational campaign and putting up signs to inform the UT community about the new policy. She said at this time there are no plans to implement a financial penalty if people violate the ban and repeat violations will be directed to the appropriate student, faculty and staff liaisons.

Howarth-Moore said the UT administration understands the challenges this new policy places on people who are current tobacco users, but hopes people will see this change as an opportunity to quit and take advantage of tobacco cessation resources on campus.

“If people choose not to take advantage of the tobacco resources we are providing, we hope that this gives them time to adjust their work schedule and start to think about how they will implement this policy in their work or school day,” Howarth-Moore said. “This is the right direction for the University.”

UT first announced plans on Feb. 9 to possibly change its tobacco policy after the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas announced new rules requiring all institutions receiving cancer research funds to become tobacco-free by Aug. 31. If the University did not comply with the new rules, it would not be eligible to receive future funding from the institute. The institute provides approximately $31 million for more than 20 professors working on cancer research. UT plans to apply for $88 million later this year.

In a February campus-wide email, University officials stated they planned to develop a policy by March 1 to meet the deadlines stated by Cancer Research and Prevention Institute of Texas. Howarth-Moore said there was a misunderstanding on the deadline to be in compliance with the new policy.

Kristen Doyle, Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas lawyer and a cancer survivor, said March 1 was the adoption date of the new rule and grantees have until Aug. 31 to develop a new policy.

Doyle said although she has not seen the policy, it seems like UT has gone above and beyond banning tobacco in buildings where cancer research takes place, the minimum requirement the institute called for.

Doyle said she thinks it is great UT has adopted a tobacco-free policy on campus.

“Preventing people from taking up both smoking and tobacco use, especially now when they’re in college, will help them for the rest of their lives,” Doyle said. “As a cancer survivor, I hope someone else won’t have to have that awful moment and hear, ‘Oh, you’ve got cancer.’”

Howarth-Moore said although the University had previously considered only banning tobacco use in buildings and areas where cancer research took place, they decided against it. Many professors and graduate students conducting research will often have their lab in one building but may go to places such as the library in the Main Building to analyze their research, Howarth-Moore said, and that makes the building a cancer research facility.

Howarth-Moore said new research facilities are added and change every semester and would make a tobacco ban only encompassing cancer research buildings difficult and confusing to implement.

Matthew Haviland, president of the UT Texas Public Health Organization, said he thinks the tobacco ban will contribute to the improving the health of students and potentially decreasing insurance costs.

The organization conducted a survey last semester and found that out of 1,551 respondents, 77 percent indicated they wanted a stronger tobacco policy at UT. Among the people who identified as smokers who took the survey, about one-third said they wanted stricter limits on tobacco use.

Haviland said he sat on a committee with administrators to discuss the possible implementation of a tobacco ban and expected the announcement.

He said he hopes this encourages the city of Austin and schools across the U.S. to consider banning tobacco.

Printed on Thursday, April 12, 2012 as: UT approves tobacco ban across campus