We’d like to think that our college students are learning how to lead healthier lives during their time on campus, so it’s never made sense to us that tobacco products are allowed at some institutions of higher learning.
We realize that smoking may not be the top concern of all parents who send their children away to a college or university, but we believe it is on the list, and with good reason. Having once been a student, we understand how easy it is to pick up new habits when you’re away from home — perhaps for the first time — and want to celebrate your new-found freedom and win the approval of your peers.
And most former smokers and smokers who would like to quit, but can’t, will tell you that smoking is not an easy habit to kick once you pick it up. In many cases, it can follow you around for a lifetime.
That’s why we were pleased to learn that Texas Woman’s University will become tobacco-free on its Denton, Dallas and Houston campuses this fall. The Board of Regents decided unanimously recently to authorize university officials to develop policies banning all tobacco products for each campus.
The TWU Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and Staff Council submitted recommendations to make TWU smoke-free, and a survey of more than 400 employees showed that 63 percent favored the measure, said Brenda Floyd, vice president for finance and administration.
“The emphasis is, from all of the respondents who want us to move in this direction, that we are a predominantly health science-directed institution, and therefore we should lead the way in healthy environments,” she said.
We think the new policy is a wise idea, and we like the fact that officials decided to include smokeless tobacco, as well.
The new policy will make TWU one of 1,130 universities across the country to implement a smoke- or tobacco-free policy. Neighboring University of North Texas went smoke-free Jan. 1 this year, and now limits on-campus tobacco use.
The Houston TWU campus is already smoke-free because of a Houston city ordinance and policies for the Denton and Dallas campuses are near completion, Floyd said.
The policies will then go to Chancellor Ann Stuart for approval before being implemented for the fall semester.
Floyd said a few faculty members were initially concerned that a tobacco-free policy would inconvenience student smokers, but Richard Nicholas, vice president for student life, said student opinion strongly favors a smoke- and tobacco-free campus.
“The number of student smokers is very low, and students through both official and unofficial channels have been asking for us to be smoke-free,” Nicholas said. “I don’t really expect any real change, and it is what they want.”
Things have certainly changed since we were in college — a lot of people smoked then, and those who didn’t were forced to deal with the effects, including a lot of second-hand smoke.
TWU’s new policy and the one already in place at UNT may not prevent anyone from using tobacco products, but at least the universities won’t be doing anything to encourage the habit, and that’s the way it should be.