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About the Eliminate Tobacco Use Initiative

Tobacco use remains a major public health problem in Texas and across the nation. It is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung disease, and cardiovascular diseases. Every year, tobacco use continues to claim the lives of 28,000 Texans while costing the state $10.29 billion in annual health care costs directly caused by smoking. This is preventable.

The Eliminate Tobacco Use Initiative is working to create tobacco-free cultures within institutions of higher education through policy, prevention and cessation.

Eliminate Tobacco Use Domains

The Eliminate Tobacco Use Initiative is built on three foundational areas supported by evidence-based best practices in tobacco control: policy, prevention/education and cessation services. Learn more about the ETU Domains.

The Eliminate Tobacco Use Initiative offers a variety of evidence-based strategies including:

  • Tobacco-free campus policy adoption, implementation, and evaluation
  • Education, prevention and cessation health communication tools
  • Guidelines and best practices to connect people who use tobacco and vape with the cessation services
  • Learning and peer networking via annual summit and quarterly webinars
  • Producing annual impact report sharing best practices, initiative accomplishments and future goals

99% of adults who smoke cigarettes daily first try smoking by age 26.1

Why the Higher Education Setting?

By starting with institutions of higher education, the initiative seeks to drive down the state of tobacco use in the state of Texas and serve as a model for other institutions and agencies across the nation.

Our efforts are most effective when inclusive of all types of institutions of higher education, including universities, colleges, seminaries, institutes of technology, vocational schools, trade schools, and other career colleges that award degrees.

There is an opportunity to shift the social norms around smoking and tobacco use during this time of growth and experimentation for many young people. Before reaching the age of 21, 95% of smokers started using tobacco products. According to a recent study, as of 2017, 16.7% of accredited, degree-granting institutions in the United States had 100% smoke-free or 100% tobacco-free protections. Of those campuses, sites and schools combined, an estimated 14.9 million college students and 8.9 million faculty and staff were protected from secondhand smoke exposure by either a campus policy or by state laws. As tobacco and nicotine products evolve, colleges and universities can become agents of change by providing an ideal environment to nurture lifelong behaviors and develop future leaders.

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019) 2019 National Survey on Drug Use And Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive.


The Eliminate Tobacco Use initiative formed from a desire to spearhead statewide and national tobacco control efforts. This website describes the accomplishments and impact of the initiative thus far, highlighting innovative strategies that can be shared among institutions of higher education. We aim to accelerate all tobacco control efforts on campuses and beyond, and to provide resources to aid in those efforts.

The human and financial costs of tobacco are undeniable. Yet, according to the latest statistics, 4.69 million Texas residents continue to smoke or use other forms of tobacco.

We applaud all the dedicated higher education professionals in Texas and beyond who are working together with national, state and community partners to eliminate tobacco use. Thank you for fostering respectful, healthy and tobacco-free environments, and for your commitment to improving the health and well-being of all.

Team lakey

David Lakey, MD
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
The University of Texas System

Team hawk

Ernest Hawk, MD, MPH
Vice President, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

ETU History

In 2015, Dr. David Lakey of The University of Texas System (UT System) and Dr. Ernest Hawk, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson), along with the EndTobacco® Program team at MD Anderson and the Office of Health Affairs at UT System, created the Eliminate Tobacco Use Initiative. The aim of the initiative was to first tackle tobacco use among all the University of Texas (UT) system institutions to more effectively lead larger statewide and national tobacco control efforts.

By May 2017, five UT campuses adopted 100% tobacco-free and vape-free campus policies. They joined the other nine UT academic institutions and health science centers, making UT System the first public university system and largest single employer in Texas to prohibit tobacco use.

Initiative Growth

Since 2018, the initiative has grown from the founding ETU Texas site to a national initiative, now including 87 institutions of higher education around Texas as well as Missouri, New Jersey and Virginia. Learn more about the initiative’s history through this interactive timeline.

Through actions taken by these schools to adopt and enforce policies, offer prevention programs and increase cessation services, the initiative is impacting approximately 1.9 million faculty, staff and students.