The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas announced earlier this month a new tobacco-free policy for all current and future grantees, which includes Texas Tech and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Smoking is banned within 20 feet of building entrances on campus.
Taylor Eighmy, vice president for research at Texas Tech, said the university has received about $1 million from the institute since it was established and is looking to get much more.
“You can certainly understand why CPRIT would want to do something like this. Cancer is such a dreaded disease, and it impacts so many people. The linkages between tobacco and cancer is very clear,” Eighmy said. “This is probably not the first time an (entity) such as CPRIT, which distributes research dollars to help combat this disease, is implementing these kinds of rules. We understand it, and we will comply with the rule. It doesn’t surprise us.”
Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007, establishing CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund ground-breaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas.
CPRIT has funded 364 awards for cancer research, commercialization, and prevention since 2010, according to its website. Recipients of CPRIT awards include 66 academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and private companies all located in Texas.
The new policy applies to all institutions, organizations or companies that receive grant funding from CPRIT equal to or more than $25,000 during a fiscal year. The tobacco-free policy encompasses all forms of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff and chewing tobacco.
The rule requires the prohibition of tobacco products by employees and visitors to buildings and structures where CPRIT-funded projects take place, as well as the sidewalks, parking lots, walkways and attached parking structures immediately adjacent that the extent the CPRIT-funded entity owns, leases or controls.
Texas Tech must implement a revision to its current operating policy, which will need approval by the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents, Eighmy said. The deadline for Tech to comply with the policy is Aug. 31.
The tobacco-free policy only will affect buildings where research is being conducted with CPRIT funding. Eighmy said about five buildings will be tobacco-free, including an engineering building, human sciences, agriculture and experimental sciences.
The details of enforcing the policy cannot be made public until they are finalized after the board of regents meet in March, Eighmy said.
Eighmy said banning tobacco use campuswide is a hot topic, but for now, the university is focusing on this policy.
“I think that’s obviously something folks could think about and talk about,” he said. At the moment ... I think we’re going to apply this in more of a stage-wide fashion. We’re coming into compliance with the specific requirements that allow us to meet CPRIT (policy).”
Clint Elliot, a non-smoking senior, said the tobacco-free policy sounded fine to him, until he understood the policy included smokeless tobacco.
“I think that’s kind of dumb. Smokeless tobacco doesn’t do anything. I guess it gives you gum cancer, but it’s uncommon,” he said. “I guess I’ll steer clear of those buildings.”
Nellie Vanderhagen, a freshman who does not use tobacco products, said she believes the new policy is a healthy idea, but said she doesn’t necessarily agree with it.
“Secondhand smoke isn’t good. I don’t want to be around people smoking. It’s a good idea for the environment and health. ... I think they have freedom to smoke (where they choose) within certain limits. The doorway limit is a good idea, but that shouldn’t change just because (Tech) is receiving funding.”
Shely Miller, a Tech senior, said she has been smoking for almost three years. She said the CPRIT policy makes sense, and she doesn’t have a problem with respecting the rule. Before she became a smoker, she would get annoyed when people walked by her and blew smoke in her face, she said.
She’s not so sure other student smokers will feel the same.
“The Human Sciences building, I don’t think it will fly over there,” she said. “There are a lot of smokers there. They’re always in front of the building. It’s kind of it’s own culture. I guarantee a lot of those people will be upset.”
Howard Monsour, a senior who was smoking outside the Human Sciences building Thursday, said has smoked since he was 13 years old.
Monsour said he believes he has a right to do what he wants, and he should be able to smoke where he wants, but he understand the reasons behind the new policy. However, he doesn’t believe all smokers will comply.
“I think, honestly, people are going to smoke (in the tobacco-free areas). People who want to smoke will anyway,” Monsour said. “We have laws, and there are always people who break them.”
Doug Stocco, executive vice president for research for the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, said CPRIT has awarded HSC institutions more than $16.2 million since its inception, but the HSC will not be affected by the new policy.
TTUHSC first issued a smoke-free policy in all owned/operated buildings in September 1989. In September 2000, a change to the policy was published, making the buildings tobacco-free environments effective Jan. 1, 2001. That policy prohibited tobacco use in TTUHSC facilities and anywhere on the grounds of any TTUHSC campus.
“The CPRIT announcement was no problem to us. We have been in compliance for at least 10 years,” Stocco said. “People thought the HSC shouldn’t be promoting non-healthy things.”
The HSC’s current policy will be presented to the board of regents for approval at its next meeting in accordance with the CPRIT requirements, he added.
“We are so far ahead of the curve on all of this. We really are,” Stocco said. “The reason is back in the late 90s and early 2000s, we had a very, very vigorous group here that was anti-smoking.”
Donna Bacchi, a Lubbock physician and former Tech System Chancellor David Smith’s wife, led the HSC’s Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control, Stocco said. The group was responsible for the smoking bans implemented by many local restaurants, he said.
Another requirement the new policy implements is CPRIT-funded entities must provide for or refer to tobacco-use cessation services for employees.
Eighmy said Tech employees interested in cessation services may contact Human Resources to get a referral.
Stocco said Bacchi and her group also put in place the HSC’s Tobacco Intervention Program, a service provided for individuals who want to quit using tobacco.
Because nicotine is an addiction, similar to other drugs, those trying to quit have to have a plan and a procedure in place to remove the addiction, Stocco said. The intervention program gives people that plan, he explained.
“I 100 percent agree with the new policy. ...” Stocco said. “I don’t think (CPRIT) is using it as a strong arm tactic, but looking at it any group investigating and working for the prevention of cancer should have such a policy because of what we know about the danger of cigarettes and cancer. I applaud their efforts, and I think they’re right on the money.”