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UNT plans ban on smoking

Profile image for By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer
By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer

Officials now working out details of policy to free campus of bad habit

The University of North Texas recently announced it will ban smoking on its Denton campus effective in January 2013.

University officials are now writing the policy for the ban, said UNT President Lane Rawlins, and they plan to offer information on smoking cessation programs for people interested in quitting.

Rawlins said university officials are sympathetic to those who smoke.

The one part of the policy that is certain is that smoking will be banned everywhere on campus.

Rawlins said he made the decision for health and safety reasons. He sent a memo regarding the policy in early May.

Evidence of the health effects of secondhand smoke continues to surface, he said.

According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke can cause cancer and other conditions, such as heart disease, infection in the lower respiratory tract, lung infections and asthma.

Discussions on the smoking ban started about a year ago, Rawlins said.

In a UNT survey, about 75 percent of respondents supported a smoke-free campus. The support was greater from faculty and staff than from students, he said.

The final decision was up to Rawlins, who said he felt it was his responsibility to protect the people on the Denton campus.

Some research grants that UNT receives ban smoking in buildings where the research is conducted, Rawlins said.

One such grant is from the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute of Texas, which in October 2010 gave $200,000 to professor Pudur Jagadeeswaran for his research on prostate cancer.

The institute approved a tobacco-free policy in January for organizations or companies that receive funding of $25,000 or more.

The policy says tobacco-free areas must include all the buildings and structures where projects funded by the institute are located, as well as sidewalks, parking lots, walkways and attached parking structures.

Ellen Read, an information specialist at the institute, said some universities have decided it’s easier to do a campuswide ban, although that’s not what the institute’s policy states. Universities must be in compliance with the new policy by the end of August or by the first anniversary of the institute’s grant.

North Central Texas College, which has campuses in Corinth, Gainesville and Flower Mound, went tobacco-free in January. The University of Texas at Austin went tobacco-free in April.

More than 700 colleges and universities across the country have instituted smoking bans, according to a report from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

The Denton City Council has considered a ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other workplaces. The council discussed the possibility in September after several residents asked the city to ban smoking.

Rawlins said UNT’s decision to ban smoking was not connected to the city’s discussions.

“We have to protect the health and safety of our campus first,” he said.

 

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is rmehlhaff@dentonrc.com.