The Australian National University recently announced the passing of its ANU Smoke-Free Policy, to take effect on Monday 20 July 2015, the start of Semester Two. The policy “prohibits all smoking (including electronic cigarettes) and the use of all tobacco products, subject to exceptions, anywhere on all of the University’s campuses, including buildings, properties, grounds, and workplaces”. The announcement of the policy followed “extensive consultation with staff and students”.

The policy extends to the use of tobacco products in vehicles on-campus, advertising and sale of tobacco products and tobacco industry-funded activities.

A limited number of Designated Outdoor Smoking Area (DOSA) will be located on campus, located only around university residential areas (if the residence permits it) and the ANU Bar. The Smoke-Free Policy includes not only the Acton campus, but also remote ANU facilities such as Mt Stromlo Observatory and Kioloa coastal campus.

With smoking to be permitted only in DOSA, many of the current smoking areas currently available at ANU will no longer be available from the beginning of Semester 2.

ANU’s smoke-free campaign was launched on Sunday 31 May to coincide with World No Tobacco Day.

ANU has justified the implementation of its Smoke-Free Policy on the basis that smoking is “widely acknowledged to be harmful to health, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke” and that a smoke-free environment would reduce the number of people taking up smoking and people recommencing smoking after having previously quit.

Vice-chancellor Ian Young has been quoted as saying “The university is committed to providing a safe and healthy campus environment for staff, students, contractors and visitors. We feel this will help to address that”.

Professor Young has also stated that support will be provided for staff and students who wish to quit smoking, with ANU to pay for QUIT courses for staff and PhD students. Students wishing to quit are asked to approach the ANU Students’ Association for assistance.

Accelerating trend among Australian universities

The transition to a smoke-free university campus follows similar steps by universities across Australia. Indeed, the ANU has explicitly expressed a desire to emulate other Group of Eight universities, all of which are now smoke-free.

At the beginning of 2014, the University of Western Sydney became the first university in Sydney to go entirely-smoke free, following the lead of its counterparts in other states who had already done so, including Melbourne’s Swinburne University, the University of Adelaide and all four Western Australian universities.

At the end of May 2014, the University of New South Wales banned smoking from all eight of its campuses, with offenders facing a $550 fine for lighting up. UNSW safety director Aaron Magner cited the extensive health research conducted by the university, including the work conducted by the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, being at odds with continuing to allow smoking on-campus, and the effects of second-hand smoke on its densely populated Kensington campus.

Monash University, Australia’s largest university, went smoke-free at the beginning of its second semester in July 2014.

In the ACT, Australian Catholic University became a Tobacco-Free University at the beginning of 2015. The University of Canberra only permits smoking in designated smoking areas on campus and aims to be completely smoke-free by 2016.

Enforcing the ANU Smoke-Free Policy

According to the online Frequently Asked Questions section of ANU’s Smoke-Free Policy, staff and students exposed to smoke should (where appropriate) “inform the person that the University is smoke-free and (where appropriate and available) provide the person smoking with an information card relating to the University’s Smoke-Free Policy. If exposure to smoke continues, the incident should be reported to a relevant supervisor/manager or where no supervisor/manager is directly involved, another appropriate officer e.g. local HR, the Building Custodian, and Security.”

If you notice an area where people are smoking on campus (a smoking “hot spot”), you are encouraged to e-mail details to smokefree@anu.edu.au.

Student reaction

While many have welcomed the move to a Smoke-Free Campus, some have objected on the basis of individual rights of smokers being overridden in favour of the interests of the wider ANU community; skepticism as to the health benefits for smokers and non-smokers; and the availability and accessibility of the DOSA. There is also concern that with the creation of a Smoke-Free Campus, a lack of ashtrays will lead to increased litter from cigarette butts.

Some have stated that the parameters of consultation with ANU students and staff were too limited, with the only two key options offered were choosing between the provision of DOSA or no DOSA at all (only allowing smoking at certain commercial and residential areas).

 

Photo courtesy of Bec Archer