UT Health San Antonio officials recently approved a revised tobacco-free policy that comprehensively defines tobacco-free areas on campus, expands the policy’s applications, and extends the list of prohibited items to cover vaping and e-cigarettes.

The university has had a tobacco-free policy since 2000.

The revised policy makes all UT Health SA workplaces smoke- and tobacco-free. This includes prohibiting all forms of tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaping, and e-cigarettes inside buildings and on campus grounds, entryways, and parking lots and structures, as well as in vehicles.

This revised policy applies to all employees, staff and faculty, adjunct faculty, trainees, students, residents, patients, contractors, volunteers and other visitors when they are on campus or in a facility controlled by UT Health SA.

Violators will be directed to the street or sidewalk off UT Health SA grounds.

The revised policy comes after careful deliberation by the UT Health SA Eliminate Tobacco Use Committee, which was formed as part of the UT System’s effort to become the first entirely tobacco-free university system in the state.

Along with the revised policy, new tobacco-free signs went up around campus in December 2017. Committee members also will be handing out kits with stop-smoking tools at the UT Healthier You in 2018 event at 10 a.m. on January 8 and 9, at the Academic Learning & Teacher Center at UT Health SA.

The university already offers tobacco prevention and cessation resources for faculty, staff, students, and the community, including the Quitxt quit-smoking text-message program.

“As role models for public health in San Antonio, we’re excited to improve the tobacco-free status and resources of UT Health San Antonio to help our faculty, staff, students, and visitors have the healthiest lives possible,” Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez said. Ramirez co-chairs the UT Health SA Eliminate Tobacco Use Committee and directs the Institute for Health Promotion Research in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UT Health SA.

Tobacco is known as the single-greatest preventable cause of premature death and disease in Texas and the nation. It causes more than 28,000 deaths and $18 billion in tobacco-related disease costs a year, according to state health officials.

That’s why the UT System began its Eliminate Tobacco Use Initiative in 2015.

The effort, which sought to go tobacco-free at all its 14 institutions, achieved its mission in June 2017, but it isn’t done yet. The next steps include customizing marketing campaigns for each UT campus that emphasize the freedom gained when a smoker quits or never starts.

“Our goal is unwavering—we want to promote the health and welfare of our students, faculty, staff, patients and communities,” Ramirez said.