GALVESTON — Texas A&M University at Galveston implemented a policy Tuesday that greatly restricts where students, staff, faculty and visitors can light up tobacco.
The university, with about 2,000 students and 423 faculty and staff members, has long banned smoking and other tobacco use indoors. But such bans typically lead smokers to cluster in outside areas near building entryways used often by the general public.
The rule bans smoking in areas immediately next to buildings, on sidewalks and in parking lots and also extends nonsmoking areas to include attached parking structures immediately next to classrooms, residence halls and residential areas, as well as athletic facilities.
The rule also applies to vehicles owned or rented by the university.
Tobacco use aboard the university’s training ship isn’t permitted when the vessel is docked. The master of the training ship has the authority to identify appropriate times and places for tobacco use when the ship is at sea, university officials said.
Tobacco users will be pointed to several designated smoking areas equipped with seating and ashtrays around campus.
The goal of the ruling is to better safeguard the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff and visitors, university officials said.
“The changes are the result of a thoughtful decision-making process based on well-documented evidence that use of tobacco products pose significant health risks,” Robert Smith III, president and chief operating officer at Texas A&M University at Galveston, said in a letter Tuesday announcing the new rules. “Those health risks extend to nonusers of such products as well as to users.”
Texas A&M University at College Station in September also tightened smoking rules, prohibiting smoking and tobacco use in more areas than before. More and more U.S. colleges and universities are working to snuff out smoking on campus.
The University of Texas Medical Branch implemented a campuswide smoking ban in 1990; last year it added smokeless tobacco to the prohibition. Since 2002, Galveston College also bans smoking on campus or any of its facilities.
As of Jan. 2, at least 1,130 colleges and universities in the United States had adopted smoke-free campus policies that eliminate smoking in indoor and outdoor areas across the entire campus, including residences, according to Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, a nonprofit national lobbying organization. That number has grown from 530 campuses a year ago, and 420 campuses two years ago.
Americans for Nonsmokers Rights said it expects the number to continue to climb rapidly as a result of the growing social norm supporting smokefree environments and support from within the academic community for such policies.
Violations of Texas A&M’s rule could result in disciplinary actions spelled out in system policies and regulations and university rules and procedures, officials said. Visitors refusing to comply may be asked to leave campus.
“This change is not being made without the understanding that the cessation of these behaviors can be extremely difficult,” Smith said in Tuesday’s announcement. The university compiled a list of resources for faculty and staff members wanting quit tobacco. Smith encouraged students who use tobacco to visit the campus Counseling and Career Services for help.
Officials don’t expect enforcing the rules to be a problem. And they expect everyone on campus to observe the requirements, said spokeswoman Cathy Cashio-Bertrand, director of communications and media relations at the island campus.
“We are a very polite society here,” Cashio-Bertrand said. “The Aggies are pretty self-regulating; we rely on our codes. This is one more example of how we are trying make quality of life better for the campus community and campus visitors.”