AUSTIN -- It's not a common sight on the University of Texas campus, but every now and then, you see someone do it -- light up a cigarette. In a few short weeks, using any type of tobacco on campus will be strictly prohibited.
In just two years, UT has received $30 million in grant funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) for cancer prevention and treatment studies. The university has the opportunity to apply for another $88 million in additional grant money over the next few years, but only If it becomes tobacco free.
CPRIT was established by Texas voters in 2007. The institute is authorized to issue $3 billion in bonds over a 10-year period for cancer research and prevention.
Executive Director Bill Gimson says they award grants four times a year, totaling $300 million a year. This year advisers with the group came up with a new rule to get the money.
"They came forward with the recommendation we have a tobacco-free policy for any grantee," Gimson explained.
UT is planning to comply.
"That level of funding is so vital to our mission that we want to make sure that we're in compliance," said UT Director of Human Resources Adrienne Howarth-Moore. "It's just a matter of how do we do that."
Howarth-Moore says the plan is to educate the 70,000 people on campus of the change, as opposed to punishing them.
Word of the change is already spreading across campus.
"We definitely talked about it in class, and people had a lot of different opinions," said freshman Kayla Oliver.
Oliver, a non-smoker, is not a fan of the new rule.
"You might be infringing on individual liberties, and that's a First Amendment issue," she said.
Blake Smith, a smoker for two years now, supports the ban.
"It's a good idea. Smoking's bad. I kind of hate myself for smoking, but definitely, it's a good idea," said Smith.
UT French professor Charles Mignot smokes about two packs a day, but he too supports the ban.
"I think it's going to give me the incentive on quitting again. I tried to quit several times. I failed. So I think it could be like a real incentive," Mignot said.
UT plans to have the new policy in place by March 1. The university doesn't expect everyone to quit "cold turkey." It will offer resources to students, faculty and staff who want to quit.