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Melbourne Uni to butt out smoking on campus by 2015

Rachel Furolo

Thu Jan 02 2014


THE University of Melbourne is preparing to restrict smoking on all its campuses next year, in a move that will ensure the university is smoke free by 2015. Rachel Furolo reports.

February 42014, also known as World Cancer Day, will mark the beginning of a new initiative by the University of Melbourne to slowly phase out tobacco smoking and ban the sale of cigarettes on campus.

The shift to a smoke free environment reflects the University’s efforts to promote the health and wellbeing of students, staff and visitors on campus. It follows a number of reports published by organisations such as QUIT and VicHealth which highlight the damaging effects of smoking and passive smoking on young people.

Pro Vice Chancellor of Equity & Student Engagement Richard James recognises that while the change won’t happen overnight, the process will overhaul the current policies and see gradual implementation.

Initially, there will be designated smoking areas on campus, in an effort to contain smoking to minimal spaces. The complete banning of smoking at all times will follow this, until full compliance is reached by 2015.

Support programs will be available for staff and students looking to quit and there will be a continued assurance that the University doesn’t have any direct investments in the tobacco industry.

Pro Vice Chancellor James says that the initiative has been met with positive reactions from most.

Students themselves conducted a survey this year and there is an overwhelming majority that believe that the University should be smoke free.” – Pro Vice Chancellor James

This response was echoed by several Melbourne University students who Meld approached on the topic.

Arts graduate Georgia McDermott believes that the initiative is a logical and positive outcome for all involved.

“As a non-smoker, I have found myself inhaling the smoke of others on many occasions throughout my degree, which is not something I remotely enjoy. However, not only would this new regulation relieve the instances of passive smoking, it may also influence smokers, both students and staff, to reconsider their habit. The inconvenience of having to leave campus in order to have a cigarette might convince them to finally give up smoking, which can only be a positive thing,” she said.

Biomedicine student Alivia Opie agreed.

“The phasing out of smoking on campus is a positive step towards improving the health of the university population now and in the future. It will also remove the impact second hand smoke has on those of us who don’t smoke,” she said.

Nevertheless there are some, like Arts student Michael Sabljak  who sees the move as unnecessary and intrusive.

“It represents a paternalistic and arrogant decision by an institution that believes it has the right to make decisions about the private lives of others. In the broad scheme of every exhaust, pollutant and gas our society pumps into the air, a whiff of second hand smoke has a negligible effect at best, and no effect in practice.”

“The University would be best served minding its own business and focusing on improving our learning experience and the quality of our tutors instead,” he said.

The University of Melbourne is not the first tertiary institution to implement a smoke-free initiative. In Australia alone, a number of tertiary institutions have adopted the practice.

The University of Adelaide began its ban on smoking in 2010 with a similarly designed campaign that provided assistance to those looking to quit. However, with no transitional period, students and staff were expected to comply with a complete smoke free policy as soon as it came into effect. Gerald Buttfield, Manager of Health Safety and Wellbeing at the University of Adelaide said that one of the major risks that the University considered was the impact on international students.

The challenging group is always going to be the international students, who come from countries where [cigarette] advertising is still allowed and money is poured into getting people started smoking early.”

“The challenging group is always going to be the international students, who come from countries where [cigarette] advertising is still allowed and money is poured into getting people started smoking early,” Mr Buttfield said.

The University of Adelaide ultimately concluded that the health risks outweighed the economic risks and went forth with the smoke free campaign.

Likewise, Swinburne’s Australian campuses adopted a smoke-free policy on August 12 2013.

University of Melbourne is hoping for its initiative to be a long-term project that eventually sees the hospital and university precinct around Parkville and Carlton turned into a smoke-free zone.