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ACC goes tobacco-free

By Andy Sevilla

Cigarettes at Austin Community College campuses have been banned since 2012, but as the new year rolled in it’s lights out for all tobacco products at every college campus.

In November, the Austin Community College (ACC) District Board of Trustees approved an expansion to its 2012 smoke-free policy, to include nicotine vapor products and devices, such as electronic cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco products to its prohibition.

The new tobacco-free policy went into effect Jan. 5, when the college’s campus offices opened after the winter holidays.

“We want to maintain a healthy and safe environment for our students and employees,” Dr. Mary Hensley, ACC executive vice president of college operations said. “Research indicates that smokeless tobacco products pose significant health hazards, causing cancer and other diseases.”

Presently, there are more than 1,400 smoke-free campuses in the nation, 975 of them are tobacco-free, according to ACC.

ACC’s smoke-free policy was adopted in October 2011, implemented on Jan. 2, 2012, and prohibited the use of smoke-producing tobacco products in district facilities, college property and in ACC-owned vehicles.

“We are committed to maintaining a healthy and safe environment for our students and employees,” Dr. Barbara Mink, then-chair of the college’s board of trustees said in an ACC statement announcing the smoke-free policy. “ACC joins a growing number of Texas colleges and universities taking this step. It makes sense for us from both health and financial perspectives.”

Texas State University and the University of Texas went tobacco free in 2011 and 2012, respectively. 

The city of Kyle, which is home to the Hays-ACC campus, recently banned electronic cigarettes for minor inside its city limits.

In June, the Kyle city council preempted any potential state and federal prohibitions, banning the possession and use of electronic cigarettes for minors under the age of 18.

“It does seem… shocking that any 12- or 13-year-old could go into a store in Kyle and buy an e-cigarette or smoke it on campus,” then-Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson said while discussing the ban in May. “I’m very happy that the FDA is taking up this issue, until then I’m happy to make the sale of e-cigarettes illegal to minor in Kyle as soon as possible.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prepared emergency response information addressing the dangers associated with liquid nicotine, which include affects to the nervous system and heart, as well as being an addictive substance, the city’s approved legislation states.

When some local minors first heard of Kyle’s attempt to ban the possession and use of e-cigarettes by minors, they voiced their disapproval on social media.

“At least we aren’t shooting heroin,” a minor said on Twitter.

“So you rather us smoke cigarettes,” another minor tweeted.

According to the city’s legislation, the purpose of the ban for minors is to protect them from the health risks and potential hazards of nicotine addiction and reported dangers of ingesting products with no regulatory oversight as to their content and potential health impacts. 

The city’s electronic cigarette ban for minors was proposed by the Kyle Area Youth Advisory Council (KAYAC), a group of Hays CISD students from both Lehman and Hays high schools who advise the city council on matters of concern to students.

KAYAC members told council their recommendation for the ban came after concerns of students using electronic cigarettes on school campuses surfaced. 

“We thought this wasn’t an appropriate activity for minors to engage in,” James Collins, one of the crafters of the proposal and then-KAYAC vice president told council.

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