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Clearing the air UTRGV working to review its smoke-free policy

GABRIEL MATA/ THE RIDER

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is determining whether its smoke-free policy should undergo changes.

Under the current policy, the university “prohibits the use of all smoking devices and tobacco products on university property.”

Exceptions to the policy include off-campus UTRGV-provided housing facilities and lodging, artists or actors who participate in UTRGV
authorized performances and educational or clinical purposes involving smoking devices or tobacco products.

UTRGV representatives traveled to Houston in late February for a tobacco-use summit where all UT System institutions discussed their respective smoke-free policies and practices.

Nikkie Hodgson, UTRGV’s associate vice president for Organizational Development Training, attended the summit.

“UT System had a tobacco summit because of concerns of health and university employees,” Hodgson said.

“They are putting a lot of emphasis on making sure we implement a tobacco-free campus at all our locations.”

Hodgson said UTRGV representatives from the departments of Student Affairs, Human Resources and the School of Medicine also attended the summit.

They learned what other universities are doing in regard to on-campus smoking.

“We were able to learn everything there was,” Hodgson said, “how aggressive some universities are [in regard to the policy] and how some universities have no policy.”

Hodgson said a committee will soon be formed at UTRGV to review the existing policy.

“I’m sure when the committee gets developed we’ll include students, faculty, staff,” she said. “[We’ll] have a good group of representatives from the different populations at UTRGV.”

She said the university is in a good place, having implemented a smoke-free policy last September.

“It’s too premature for us to say whether it will change or not,” Hodgson said. “There may never be a change to what we have currently, so be aware it could stay the same but at least it’s something that is being discussed. We are just draftingnthe recommendations and then it goes up to administration. It is concerning and we want to make sure we make this a safe place.”

UTRGV freshman Jose Ramos said he is against the smoke-free policy.

“People are still going to bensmoking anyway, so I think that we should come up with zones,” Ramos said. “Maybe come up with smoking zones and for all the smokers to be there and maybe we won’t see them so scattered around campus.”

Ramos said he has witnessed people smoking on campus.“I notice people smoke nearbuildings and near the trees in open air,” the business major said. “If the police start fining people, well, obviously a lot of people are going to stop smoking on campus but if they don’t, I think that they should just come up with zones. Maybe the smokers will respect it a little bit more.”

According to the school Handbook of Operating Procedures, violations can be enforced through routine inspections or the result of complaints from the campus community. Violations may also be referred to the University Police, who have the option of issuing a citation.

To access the current smoke-free policy online, visit utrgv.edu/hop.

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