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Sunday, April 14, 2024 — Houston, TX

New policy restricts smoking on campus

By Michael He     8/30/12 7:00pm

 

Beginning Sept. 1, tobacco users at Rice University will have to limit their consumption to one of 13 locations on campus. 

There will be a zone within a five-minute walk from any building on campus, and each location will have a covered canopy, waste receptacles and seating areas, Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby said. 



"We reached out and talked to the [Student Association] and [Graduate Student Association] about the policy, seeking input on the designated locations, which are flexible and may be adjusted after a few months as we receive feedback from people," Kirby said. 

Violators will be held accountable by regular supervisory programs, with students reporting to Student Judicial Programs, Kirby said. 

"Generally, we're going to rely on the goodwill and nature of people to want to create a good environment for us to live and work in and for community members to remind people to not smoke by doors," Kirby said. "But if there are exceptions to that behavior, we will go through the normal enforcement processes."

Kirby cited more stringent requirements by the grant-giving Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas as a reason for the policy change. 

"CPRIT gives out grants in the area of cancer prevention, research and the commercialization of research, and Rice is a large recipient of many of their research grants," Kirby said. "They have instituted a new requirement on those who receive grants, part of which is a tightening of tobacco policies on campus."

Fellow grant recipients University of Houston and University of Texas at Austin chose to completely ban tobacco on campus. 

"For us, a complete ban was not practical or enforceable and would lead to unintended consequences like people moving to nearby neighborhoods or sidewalks around campus," Kirby said. 

The previous tobacco policy prohibited smoking in buildings and near entrances and air intakes but smoking zones were largely dictated by the, which was confusing for students, Director of Planning and Projects Daniel Fu said. 

"Students from one college may have understood the smoking zone to be in one location, but in another college, the area would be in a different location," Fu said. "I feel like students will now find it easier to know where to smoke. Instead of trying to hide out on a picnic table or trying to walk out into the street, you'll know where the smoking zones are."

Overall, Kirby said he hopes students will view the policy as fair. 

"What we're trying to do is put out a policy that is reasonable, that in general people will comply with," Kirby said. "We're not out to punish people who smoke. Just the opposite - we want to help them if they choose to quit smoking."

To assist students, the Wellness Center will continue offering free smoking cessation programs to both undergraduates and graduates. 

"This program is for students who want to quit and want some support in doing that," Wellness Center Director Emily Page said. "It's a group program, and we sit down to talk about what triggers cause students to smoke, how they can manage them, and what issues can be obstacles in their efforts to quit."

The program consists of four sessions spanning two weeks. Interested students can contact the Wellness Center directly or visit http:// wellness.rice.edu/freshstart.

"We really want to encourage students who want to quit to think about doing that, [and] to consider the best way to go about quitting," Page said. "Quitting smoking can be one of the hardest things to do, especially for somebody who has been doing it for a while. 

The goal of the program is to work with them and not to judge or shame them by any means."

Geosciences graduate student Erhan Basaran said the new policy may also help smokers cut down on usage.

"About two years ago, Turkey established a policy where it was no longer OK to smoke indoors," Basaran said. "A lot of people quit smoking then, and I think this will also help people who want to quit."

Earth sciences graduate student Hamid Shahid said he did not like the policy, but it may cut down his smoking by force.

"I'm going to cut down on my smoking if I have to walk some place to smoke," Earth sciences graduate student Hamid Shahid said. "But then again, I'm going to smoke two or three when I'm there, so maybe I won't cut down."

Some, like Jones College senior Chris Keller, view the policy and the societal pressures the regulations convey as a step in the right direction.

"I think it's about time the university does something to reduce the amount of tobacco on campus and to sort of make it seem not like a social norm," Keller said. "I really can't think of any benefit for tobacco use, so just from a public health standpoint, I think this is the right direction for Rice."

The ultimate effect this policy will have on tobacco use depends primarily on the enforcement, said philosophy graduate student Steven DeLay.

"I've noticed that currently, most people, even Rice staff, don't use the designated areas," DeLay said. 

"Until I get a fine and it seems like they're actually going to start enforcing the policy,

"I'm probably just going to keep doing what I'm doing now."

More information about the new policy and future changes to designated smoking zones may be found at http://www.rice.edu/tobacco-free/.



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