University campus to go smokefree

By Vaughan Elder of the Otago Daily Times

University of Otago has announced its plans to become smoke free. Photo / File
University of Otago has announced its plans to become smoke free. Photo / File

The University of Otago plans to make its Dunedin campus smokefree from the beginning of 2014.

The plan, which would ban smoking on all campus property, was revealed to the Otago Daily Times by the student representative on the university's "Smokefree Campus Implementation Working Group" Beau Murrah, a fifth year Law and Arts student and confirmed by vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne.

A policy banning smoking within six metres of any building on campus was introduced in 2010.

Mr Murrah said the working group met for the first time yesterday to discuss how the university would go about implementing the ban.

Prof Hayne said discussions about a smokefree campus began earlier this year, with the working group met for the first time yesterday.

She said the vice-chancellor's advisory group supported the introduction of a smokefree campus at the beginning of 2014.

"This timeline allows a careful phase-in period, including provision of extensive quit support for smokers who wish to become smokefree."

The university supported the policy because it wanted the campus to be a healthy environment

"As a large employer and an institution that accommodates many young people, the university wishes to promote environments that are safe and healthy, and that all staff, students and visitors can enjoy," she said.

Asked if it would effect pro-cannabis law reform group Norml's bi-weekly protest on campus she said: "Staff, students and visitors are expected to comply with all university policies."

The move would bring the Dunedin campus in line with Otago University's other campuses and the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury, Victoria University and Otago Polytechnic, all of which have already adopted smokefree campus policies.

Mr Murrah said the working group, which was headed by marketing department Prof Janet Hoek, brought up the results of an Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) referendum held this year, which showed 78 per cent of respondents supported such a ban.

Despite being a smoker himself Mr Murrah said he supported the move to a smokefree campus.

"I view it as inevitable and think it is a good idea. I recognise the evidence about second hand smoke and it probably will be good for the university's marketing."

However, he was concerned about the impact it could have on Norml and on smokers who went to the university bar ReFuel.

OUSA president elect Francisco Hernandez said this year's referendum result meant it would be supporting the policy.

"Students have spoken with a clear voice that they would like us to support a smoking ban on campus."

Norml acting president Julian Crawford said the group would look for ways to get round the ban in its bi-weekly protests.

"If they try and crack down on us we wouldn't want to see the club shut down. We would look at alternative methods of using cannabis."

Cancer Society Otago and Southland Division health promotion manager Penelope Scott said the policy was a good move.

"The Government has a smokefree has a goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025 and I think that this move by the university is well in keeping with that," she said.

- Otago Daily Times

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