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