Uni plans total smoke ban

Not here: It’s on a 65-hectare site, but smokers will be banned from every part of the Waikato University campus in 2014 under a new plan.
Not here: It’s on a 65-hectare site, but smokers will be banned from every part of the Waikato University campus in 2014 under a new plan.

The University of Waikato plans to stub out smoking on campus by 2014.

But the move to a smoke-free environment, which will bring the university in line with most other tertiary institutions around the country, has been met with a mixed response from students - with some questioning the practicality of implementing the policy on a 65-hectare campus.

PhD student Mathew Thomas, who is studying technology education, said it would be a while before students stopped smoking on the university's grounds, and even then, the university would struggle to enforce it.

"Smoking is something personal. I can understand some places, but not the whole campus."

The university's vice-chancellor, Roy Crawford, said the decision to go smoke-free would help provide a safe and healthy working and learning environment, and was the next step in its drive to a "clean, green image".

"We've been using the beauty of our campus as part of our distinctiveness, and trying to create a safe and healthy working environment is the next step in that process," Professor Crawford said.

The plan will extend the university's current smoke-free policy, which prohibits smoking in all indoor areas of the campus, as well as select zones such as the cafeteria, to the entire campus.

Engineering student Arisha Naidoo, 21, said she was not looking forward to the rule. "Logistically it's impractical for me. In order to smoke, I have to leave the campus."

Ms Naidoo and Mr Thomas both said they would support designated smoking zones, but any binding consultation on the issue seems dead in the water.

In a statement on the university's website, the university said designated areas were rejected so that there would be no "confusion around where people can and cannot smoke" and no-one "will be unwillingly exposed to second-hand smoke that drifts into a smoke-free area."

Prof Crawford said the policy was going through a consultation stage to find out how the university could apply the plan "in a way that is sympathetic to everyone's needs".

"The consultation is not about whether we should or shouldn't do it, it is really about how we should do it," he said.

Waikato Student Union president Aaron Letcher said the student body did not officially have a stance on the issue but would be undertaking consultation through student surveys and a "coffee bean poll" at local cafes to gauge student feelings on the topic.

"I would hope that any consultation that the university conducts will be real and meaningful consultation with students and other stakeholders, not simply ticking all the boxes before pushing through to a predetermined outcome."

Mr Letcher said some of the current regulations around smoke-free areas had not been effective, and having a complete ban might be easier.

Waikato Times