Rice adopts tobacco-free policy

Starting Sept. 1, Rice University will implement a tobacco-free policy that restricts smoking and other uses of tobacco to 13 designated outdoor areas on campus.

Rice Policy 839 will enable the university to meet the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas’ (CPRIT) tobacco-free requirement for all buildings in which $25,000 or more of CPRIT-funded research is conducted.

“Since Rice receives large grants from CPRIT, we are obligated to comply, and we’re in a good position to do so because of our ongoing efforts to provide a healthier campus environment for students, faculty and staff,” Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby wrote in a campuswide email Aug. 29.

Rice’s current policy, updated in 2010 to comply with a city ordinance, prohibits smoking in university-owned or leased buildings and vehicles and at open-air athletic events and recreational facilities. The current policy permits smoking outside in areas that are at least 25 feet from entryways, exits, wheelchair ramps serving as entries or exits, outdoor air intakes or operable windows.

“To comply with the CPRIT regulations, we are expanding that policy to all forms of tobacco products, including snuff and chewing tobacco as well as cigarettes, cigars and pipes,” Kirby said. “The administration spent a lot of time and effort selecting locations for the Designated Tobacco-Use Areas because we wanted all buildings on campus to be within a five-minute walk from these areas.

“We also wanted to minimize exposure to secondhand smoke, so most of the designated areas are not adjacent to intersections or along major pathways. We did not place smoking areas inside the Academic and Central quads or near the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center,” Kirby said.

The approved locations are marked with a sign that reads “Designated Tobacco-Use Area” and will eventually have tents above them for protection from rain and sun.

Littering the campus with the remains of tobacco products or other related waste product is also prohibited by the new policy. The policy, FAQs and a map of the Designated Tobacco-Use Areas can be found at rice.edu/tobacco-free.

Kirby said the restriction on the use of tobacco products on campus is consistent with the university’s other wellness initiatives. “For example, we’re offering a variety of programs, including weight control and skin-cancer screening, and we’ve eliminated copayments for generic medications for chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes,” he said.

Faculty and staff can learn more about those programs at http://people.rice.edu/Wellness.aspx.

“It’s worth noting that the trend in higher education is toward adopting absolute bans on smoking and other tobacco use,” Kirby said. More than 700 college campuses have already taken steps in that direction, and the Associated Press recently reported that bans are being considered at approximately half of the campuses across the country as more and more evidence indicates the significant health risks of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the U.S. Despite all the information about the dangers, 443,000 Americans still die of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke each year.

“We realize that quitting can be very difficult, so we have made smoking-cessation programs available for free to students and employees,” Kirby said. “The long-term goal is to provide a tobacco-free, healthy campus environment.”

Kirby encouraged people who smoke or chew tobacco to check out the tips and resources compiled by the CDC at www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/quitting/index.htm.

For more information on the smoking-cessation programs available at Rice, employees and students can visit http://quitsmoking.rice.edu. Students can also take advantage of the smoking-cessation program offered through Rice’s Wellness Center at http://wellbeing.rice.edu/freshstart/.

Questions and comments can be directed to Dan Fu, director of planning and projects, at dan.fu@rice.edu or 713-348-6088.


About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.