All 14 of The University of Texas System institutions will be tobacco-free by June 1, 2017, thanks to the Eliminate Tobacco Use initiative, designed to protect patients, employees and students from the detrimental effects of tobacco.
Eliminate Tobacco Use launched in February 2016 when representatives from each UT institution met in Houston to share resources and best practices for creating a tobacco-free culture.
The summit originated from a collaboration involving David Lakey, M.D., UT System’s chief medical officer and associate vice chancellor for population health, and leaders of MD Anderson’s EndTobacco program, a science-based initiative built on tobacco-control recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. EndTobacco is part of the cancer center’s prevention and control platform of the Moon Shots Program™.
This past April, tobacco control representatives from the 14 UT System institutions, partner organizations, state and local agencies, and other Texas universities and colleges gathered for the 2nd Annual Eliminate Tobacco Use Summit.
“Tobacco use is the single leading cause of preventable death in Texas,” says Lakey. “UT institutions have long been leaders in the area of tobacco and addiction research. Now we’re stepping forward as leaders in reducing the use of tobacco among our students, staff and faculty.
The summit was an opportunity for us to assess our gains so far, two years into the initiative, and to push ourselves to keep going.”
MD Anderson has already implemented a number of tobacco control policies, including a tobacco-free hiring policy in 2015, and free, evidence-based tobacco-cessation services for patients, employees and their families, provided through the cancer center’s Tobacco Treatment Program. The MD Anderson campus has been tobacco free since 1989.
“As of June 1, UT System will have comprehensive tobacco free policies in place on every campus, making it the largest single employer in Texas to prohibit tobacco use in the workplace,” says Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president and head of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at MD Anderson. “Policies such as this are only a first step; translating policies into less tobacco use and better health is an ongoing challenge that requires us to assess our needs candidly, learn from each other and constantly strive to improve.”
Eliminate Tobacco Use prohibits the use of all tobacco products at UT System institutions.
Those include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes, hookahs, electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff and chewing tobacco.
Ideally, the initiative will serve as a guide for other university systems within and beyond Texas interested in creating similar policies, Hawk says.