Student group works to tighten campus regulations on smoking

Syeda Hasan

A student organization is surveying student housing locations about their smoking policies so future tenants can consider exposure to secondhand smoke when they seek housing.

The Texas Public Health student organization released an online guide Friday detailing the tobacco policies of 31 popular off-campus housing options close to the University, including co-ops and apartment complexes. Public health junior Thomas Haviland, Texas Public Health president, said the group will continue to update the report as they gather information from more housing locations.

“I don’t feel it’s too much to ask that smokers make the effort to ensure they’re not exposing others in their environment to secondhand smoke,” Haviland said. “We feel that it would be malpractice for us to not at least recommend options that could help prevent that.”

Allowing smoking in areas of student housing can create litter, pose fire hazards and spread smoke throughout the buildings through central air conditioning systems, Haviland said. He said the organization’s members are hoping to meet with Texas State University officials, who recently banned all tobacco use on their campuses, to develop a plan for implementing a similar policy at UT to promote a healthier environment for students.

“Studies have shown that one of three college students who smokes regularly will die from a tobacco-related illness,” he said. “We feel that is absurd and completely preventable.”

Emily Morris, School of Public Health graduate student, said she worked with Texas Public Health to conduct research on the dangers of tobacco use, and she hopes this work will lead to stronger smoking regulations on campus. Morris said it is important to limit tobacco use on campus because many students are open to experimenting with tobacco and other drugs during college, which makes them more vulnerable to developing long-term addictions.

“Surveys have shown that students think their peers are smoking much more than they actually are,” she said. “The vast majority of students don’t smoke, but the small percentage that do are exposing a huge population to secondhand smoke. We all have to be proactive about our own health, and when people are smoking around us it takes away our options.”

Denise Trauth, Texas State University president, said in an announcement April 27 the university would ban the use of all forms of tobacco on both their San Marcos and Round Rock campuses beginning Aug. 1. She said the university provides resources to make the quitting process as easy as possible for students.

“Our decision to become a tobacco-free university is based on the scientific evidence regarding the harmful effects and health risks of tobacco,” Trauth said in the announcement. “This tobacco-free policy will help to reduce risks and create a healthier and safer university.”

Printed on Monday, August 8th, 2011 as: Student group creates guide to smoke-free living options