The University of Melbourne removed two designated smoking areas in its Parkville campus, showing a tougher move to be a tobacco-free university.
Professor Richard James, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Equity and Student Engagement, said the removal of the two designated smoking areas was a deliberate effort to restrict smoking on campus. “We’ll gradually remove more designated smoking areas this year,” said James.
The University of Melbourne provided eight designated smoking areas in its Parkville campus as a part of its tobacco-free policy. It aims to limit smoke exposure to non-smokers and reduce cigarette consumption. The first smoking area to be removed was outside of David Caro building and the second at the seating area between Arts West and Babel.
The tobacco-free policy applies to all University-owned buildings and land. Under this rule, the University allows smoking only in the designated smoking areas. It also bans the sale of cigarettes and prohibits tobacco advertising on campus.
“We’re heading the right way,” said James, “We have an obligation as an institution to do that.”
The tobacco-free policy took effect in February 2014. So far, no report has shown the impact of this policy towards smoking rates among students.
Dr Hielke Buddelmeyer, an economist of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne, said the tobacco-free policy might prove ineffective to make young people quit smoking.
“Young people were less likely to quit smoking in a place that introduced tougher smoking regulations,” said Buddelmeyer. “It was because of the defiance effect that encouraged them to rebel against an authority.”
Buddelmeyer, with Associate Professor Roger Wilkins, published a research paper entitled “The effects of smoking ban regulations on individual smoking rates” in 2005, investigating smoking laws in Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory.
They found the smoking rates dropped in the three states with or without smoking restrictions. The study also showed 18 to 24 year old smokers in the states with stricter smoking laws were less likely to give up smoking.
“When we wrote that paper we couldn’t find evidence that tightening regulation was causally reducing smoking rates,” said Buddelmeyer.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the smoking rates have continued to fall from 22.3 per cent in 2001 to 16.3 per cent in 2011. Smoking among young people, according to the report, was prevalent since people tended to start smoking at the age of 14.
Students and staff at the university have mixed opinions on the tobacco-free policy.
Elliot Buis, a Master of Environments student, believed the move was ineffective to make people quit smoking. “People would still smoke outside campus if they could not find a smoking area on campus,” he said.
Robert Dow, a Master of International Relations student, supported this move to make the campus a healthier environment. “I am not a smoker and I have never taken up smoking,” he said. “It is a good policy to protect people who don’t smoke.”
The University of Melbourne is one of eight Victorian universities aiming for smoke-free universities. The other universities are Deakin University, Federation University Australia, La Trobe University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and Victoria University.