Thank You For Not Smoking
Wednesday, April 18 2012
The University of Melbourne could introduce smoke-free zones or ban tobacco on campus entirely pending the outcome of consultation with staff and students.
A review of the University’s smoking policies has taken place with a view to change campus regulations, following the lead of institutions like Macquarie University, which aims to be smoke free by 2015.
The University’s Acting Associate Director of Wellbeing, Matthew Brett, told Farrago that while it is an individual’s right to smoke, there is a broad trend to place restrictions on tobacco use in Australian tertiary institutions. Currently seven other universities across the nation have moved to limit or eliminate smoking on their grounds. “The main factor [for this] is risk avoidance in regards to second hand smoke,” said Brett. Fire risks, waste on campuses and worker productivity have also been cited as reasons for partial bans.
The University’s current policy dictates staff and students must not smoke within six metres of doorways and building entrances, but Farrago noted that enforcement of this regulation is minimal. This is particularly true of café seating areas close to buildings.
With an estimated smoker rate of 12% amongst tertiary students, Brett said campus policy should take into account the other 88% of the university community, many of whom may find exposure to second hand smoke objectionable. The pride universities take in cancer research is also said to have influenced other campuses to pull their policies in line with health best practice.
However, the size of Melbourne University would make blanket bans near impossible to enforce. The prospect of pushing smokers to the outskirts of the Dookie campus for instance, may give rise to safety and fire risks. This leaves the Parkville campus, contained by Swanston and Grattan Streets, as one of the most enforceable locations for limiting tobacco.
A possible model has been implemented by Sydney’s Macquarie University, which established ‘smoker zones’ on its main campus with the view to phase out smoking entirely by 2015. At present this campaign is peer-led, but the policy on the university’s website cites possible fines for those who persist with tobacco use in smoke-free areas.
Many non-smokers on campus told Farrago that second hand smoke was annoying, but they’d prefer smoke-free zones over bans. A blanket ban made them feel uncomfortable on behalf of friends who did smoke. Feedback from smokers has been widely negative, but Brett said this is to be expected. One student said they would feel “annoyed and anxious” if they had to go off campus to smoke.
The University’s Wellbeing department said further consultation with staff and students over the next year is necessary to re-access whether current rules are in line with research aims and health standards.