A Smoke-Free Campus: The Proposal

A growing number of large, recognized Australian universities have enforced a total smoking ban including University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, University of Newcastle, University of Canberra, University of Western Australia, Australian National University, University of NSW, and the University of Melbourne among many other institutions Australia-wide. For my research task, I’m proposing an inquiry about the reasons behind the lengthy delay between the drafting to recommend the University becoming a smoke-free environment, and its forthcoming adoption as such. As a possible secondary facet to my investigation, I would like to research the potential effect that the ban will have on students and staff.

Despite the University of Wollongong having submitted a draft for a ‘Smoke-Free University’ Policy way back on 8th May 1998, and the list of universities putting their foot down and banning smoking having grown rapidly since, UOW has seemingly become more timid towards, and less committed to, the ban and even now with the news coming from SOLSmail over the Christmas holidays that the campus is planning on becoming smoke-free from 2016’s second semester, they are seeking feedback on this announcement which indicates that they might be open to persuasion. I believe that my primary question and main point of inquiry should revolve around the question as to ‘Why did it take the University of Wollongong 18 years to adopt a smoke-free policy?’

I believe this is both a feasible and topical research topic as there exist many resources that chronicle the policy’s proposal and it’s revisions as well as set-backs, and also those who were strong proponents for its eventual adoption. One particularly rich source of information for this project is obtainable from the Illawarra Public Health Society, which operates as a student-led group within the University and campaigned in support of the proposal as a part of their ‘Smoke-Free UOW Campus Policy’ during the Spring session in 2014. President of the society, ‎Ine Seljeseth, announced on the IPHS’ Facebook group that their campaign was successful after they received a letter in reply from UOW’s Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings who had recognized their efforts and recommended their group’s involvement with the UOW Work Health & Safety Unit to ‘consult, develop and implement the policy’. The index page for UOW’s ‘SAFE@WORK’ guidelines confirms this account of events by commemorating Illawarra Public Health Society representatives and the UOW Work Health & Safety Unit for this change.

Evidently, there is enough source material to feasibly research the reasons behind such a long delay between the policy’s proposal and its enactment due to the parties’ responsible for it being contactable through the university and hopefully available for interviewing.

The second part of my research task involves evaluating the potential effect that removing the ability for students to smoke while on-campus might have on their mental health (physical notwithstanding), and perhaps speculate whether those concerns are worrisome enough to warrant a compromise by implementing segregated smoking areas. Other than potentially interviewing students who smoke, I have identified several resources which should come in handy with answering this secondary study. Namely, the library stocks a paper entitled ‘Drinking and smoking habits of students at Northern Territory University’ by Kathryn Roberts and Adrian Jackson which explores just that. I believe that some of the broader observations made in this article can be reapplied to the environment of UOW.

Another resource available to me is ‘Smoking in Australian university students and its association with socio‐demographic factors, stress, health status, coping strategies, and attitude’ by Jing Sun, et al., which can similarly be leveraged to draw a preliminary understanding from. In conjunction with a possible surveying of students, I think this secondary question can be answered broadly and satisfactorily, to be left to study further in the future.

I believe this study will be both very relevant and entirely achievable, before I began researching my friends and I were unaware that such a change was around the corner and already I’ve encountered some divided opinions so I think it’s worthwhile to examine the chronology of the change and further understand its impact on staff and students alike. I have both the ability to contact those who played a key part in the cementing of this policy and especially with the IPHS group, can meet with them on-campus to get an understanding of what it took. Similarly, I should be able to gather opinions from smokers simply by approaching them and asking their opinions (should they wish to voice them).

Ultimately, the scale of my project is achievable, the persons contactable, opinions controversial and findings relevant and, hopefully, important.


 

Featured image: http://pacechronicle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/smokefree.jpg

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4 comments

  1. The Leisure Post · April 1, 2016

    Hi Clancy,

    This is an very relevent and interesting research topic. I am surprised that this degradation of smokers rights was conceived in 1998, yet still has not been implemented. It is a considerably lengthy delay and I look forward to learning why the bureaucracy is taking so long to implement this strategy.

    I personally think banning smoking from the university campus will have various negative consequences including demoralisation of smokers as a result of alienation, increased stress for nicotine addicted students and decreased university participation by smokers as a result of this flagrant dissent. I also assume that there will be positive health outcomes for the university community and I will be interested to see if you can discover whether the strategy is a positive move for the university.

    I personally totally disagree with the idea of a total smoking ban at UOW. The I do however support the idea of creating segregated smoking areas where cigarette enthusiasts can indulge in their (perfectly legal) habit, without interfering with non smokers.

    I look forward to seeing your results and good luck with your project,

    Eddie

    Like

  2. Harry · April 1, 2016

    Very interesting topic Clancy. I too am surprised at the delay in stomping out smoking on campus.
    However, it is very easy to see smokers as a minority, but for fairness and objectivity, their view and stance on this matter is important. I agree with Eddie, in that banning smoking will have prominent positive and negative effects. Looking forward to reading your findings.

    Harry

    Like

  3. Kate Bowles · April 11, 2016

    I’m really interested that you have already started a conversation here, and I hope you find a way to use your blog to bring some more commentators to the discussion. There are so many issues here, including mental health, that really deserve careful consideration. What does the increasing willingness of non-smokers to describe smoking as e.g. “disgusting” or “filthy” say about our capacity for empathy? I have watched staff colleagues step out of their way to berate smokers on campus, and while I understand their commitment to health outcomes, I feel (as a non-smoker) increasingly disconcerted by this tactic. Even a cursory reading of literature on addiction and mental health would suggest that public shaming is unhelpful.

    I would be really interested if you hear from other non-smokers, however, as I think this is a very complicated issue. So don’t hesitate to promote this blog post on Twitter.

    But as a practical request, can I ask you to remove the University’s logo from your post? There are policy issues with using the university’s logo in public (also in the Policy Directory!)

    Welcome to policy research.

    Liked by 1 person

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