Words by Adeshola Ore

The University of Melbourne will wipe out smoking and the selling of tobacco this year, following the lead of universities such as Macquarie and Swinburne.

The campus-wide tobacco ban was introduced on 4 February, marking World Cancer Day.

Ian Anderson, Assistant Vice-Chancellor of the university, told Farrago he is considering developing new smoking rules and designated smoking areas.

He said a smoke-free campus is part of a broader health strategy.

“We are not just doing this in isolation. We will be looking at our policies to make sure we’re not investing in tobacco companies,” he said.

“We’ll also be working with Student Health so if people do decide they want to give up, there are the resources behind them to do so.”

Professor Anderson said the university accepts smoking as a right of choice, but it aims to minimise the harm of passive smoking. “We’re very mindful of the need to provide a safe environment and also to promote wellbeing for staff and students.”

Professor of Public Health Rob Moodie said the ban aims to discourage smoking for a variety of reasons. “Smoking remains the first or second preventable cause of major illness in Australia,” he said. “The other reason is actually around litter—cigarette butts cause a significant amount of litter, so if you can reduce this, it is good for everybody.”

Professor Moodie said he believes the ban will de-normalise smoking on campus and send a clear message to everyone.

“It is a measure that says to all university students coming in from the start: this is a smoke free environment, it’s normal not to smoke here, it’s normal not to put other people at risk. That from a health perspective is a really good thing.”

Previous university smoking rules prohibited staff and students from smoking inside buildings and within six metres of entrances and doorways.

“There won’t be a punishment. But they will be asked not to smoke on university premises,” Professor Anderson said. “Our approach is about relying on good will and a commitment to taking care of each other.”

Rose, a student in the Master of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing, who is a social smoker, told Farrago she believes the ban is an infringement of personal choice.

“I think it completely undermines the University’s spirit of growth, experimentation and personal freedom,” she said. “Emerging from high school where there are so many restrictions on dress, behaviour and speech, university students should find themselves in a place that welcomes individualism and choice.”

The university has said they are committed to providing extra support to students and staff who want to quit smoking.

“It is an addiction, and that’s why it’s important that we have the resources to help people quit, if they want to do that,” Professor Anderson said.

The university currently offers a range of resources including GP and counselling services to assist people with the quitting process.

Professor Moodie says the smoking ban is a positive step forward for the university, believing it sends out a significant message.

“If you walk into a university like this and it’s smoke-free, it tells you something very strongly. It’s both the actual notion of smoke free and the message that it sends to young people and to staff.”

For a map of all the smoking zones, visit http://tobaccofree.unimelb.edu.au/dsa