Cancer research center funds continued efforts for tobacco-free University of Texas

Cynthia Miranda

The University has maintained a tobacco-free campus since 2012 as a result of ongoing funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. 

In 2012, the institute required all entities receiving funding to implement tobacco-free policies. The same year, UT adopted its tobacco-free campus policy, banning the use of all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and e-cigarettes. 

Additionally, the UT community developed an increased awareness of the effects of secondhand smoke, said Nosse Ovienmhada, who is in charge of informing UT about the
tobacco-free policy. 

“Tobacco use remains one of the number one causes of preventable deaths in the United States,” said Ovienmhada, the work-life and wellness manager for UT’s HealthPoint Wellness Program. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. More than 41,000 of those deaths are from secondhand smoke exposure. 


Ovienmhada said when UT implemented its tobacco-free policy as a joint effort between the tobacco-free committee and Student Government in 2012, the plan was originally
intended to last seven years.

The institute’s requirement made the creation of a policy easier and helped speed up the process, Ovienmhada said.

“I think everybody was already in the mindset that it needed to be done because at that time already in 2012, there were at least 800 institutions nationally that had already gone fully tobacco-free,” Ovienmhada said. 

Ovienmhada said the University believes tobacco-free enforcement is everyone’s responsibility. She said students can help through direct action, which requires students to voice their concerns and tell people who are smoking on campus about UT’s policy. Students can also report smoking incidents on campus through the tobacco-free campus website, which collects data including the location and time of policy violation.

“That data is used to evaluate need for additional signage in specific areas, but it’s very valuable,” Ovienmhada said. 

Biology freshman Mariam Khwaja said she was not aware of the policy and suggested more enforcement.

“I think more signs and also educating people about the risks of tobacco and how it affects your health, so maybe like an orientation or something like that (would help),” Khwaja said.

Physics junior Fohn Ferradd said he does not think smoking is a problem on campus.

“To each his own,” Ferradd said. “To me, it’s not a big deal, but to others, it might be.”