Smoking on Campus: Human Right?

Fed up of inadvertently breathing in lungfuls of second-hand smoke while waiting for a bus on campus, I took to the Redbrick to ask students whether or not they see […]

Fed up of inadvertently breathing in lungfuls of second-hand smoke while waiting for a bus on campus, I took to the Redbrick to ask students whether or not they see smoking in public as an issue worthy of University action.

IMG_6594As a non-smoker, I’ve always favoured measures which restrict smoking. The ban on smoking in public buildings imposed by the Health Act of 2006 was a big step in the right direction.

Recently, the government has also moved to ban smoking in cars, particularly when there are children at risk, which is seen by many as another positive step. The group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), among others, have continued to inform the public of the health risks posed by smoking.

Amanda Sandford, Information Manager for ASH, said:

While smoking rates continue to decline, smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of ill-health and premature death, killing around 100,000 people in the UK every year.  Despite the fact that one in five adults continue to smoke, about two-thirds of smokers report that they want to stop, so measures to restrict the places where they can light up could help stiffen their resolve to kick the habit.

Banning smoking from university campuses is a positive step which would help those who want to quit, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and also lead to a cleaner more pleasant environment.

Such measures have inevitably faced criticism. The group ‘Freedom To Choose’ sprung up in opposition to the initial smoking ban, drawing attention to its impact on human rights, and challenging what they see as the ‘myth’ of second-hand smoke.

Their arguments are often ideological, believing that even if smoking is harmful, you should be able to take that risk without government interference. Politicians, often from the right-wing, have also opposed measures to further prohibit smoking.

John Watson, from Freedom To Choose, gave some of the arguments from the pro-smoking camp:

Well over one hundred papers have been published about a possible correlation between various diseases and long term exposure to indoor tobacco smoke. 85% of them failed to find one. Of those that did, some reported a very small positive correlation and others a negative one.

ASH and others have called this substantial evidence. It is nothing of the kind. Banning smoking on the campus is an ideological proposal. It has nothing whatsoever to do with science or health.

This is, therefore, a hotly contested issue. A potential measure in favour of restricting smoking on campus would be to create designated smoking areas, and prohibit smoking in high-traffic places such as the Highfield Interchange or outside the Hartley Library.

IMG_6478I asked students at the University if they saw smoking as a problem, and if they thought such a measure would be beneficial.

Smoking doesn’t offend me, but I’d support a measure that created smoking areas. It would only work if there was a ban on smoking elsewhere, people wouldn’t go out of their way to find a designated area if they could smoke wherever they wanted – Ashley, Second Year

I don’t see smoking as a problem. I’d prefer it if there were designated areas, but it would be inconvenient for smokers – Ryan, Second Year

I don’t mind people smoking around me, but I wouldn’t have a problem with smoking areas, I feel bad for the non-smokers. I try to move away from other people when I smoke to be polite – Erik, First Year

People should be able to smoke wherever they like once they’re outdoors, it doesn’t bother me – Joel, Second Year

So the mood on campus is a relatively passive one. The majority of those I asked felt that smoking wasn’t something that offended them, but that they would support a measure to limit smoking on campus to protect those who took issue with it.

Any such measure would carry practical implications and is far from even being formally proposed to SUSU, but if the government continue to restrict smoking, it could be poking its head over a smoke-clouded horizon.

Do you think that the University should consider a measure to restrict smoking on campus? Leave your thoughts in the comments.