Are smokers the new oppressed minority?


Let me start by saying that I do not smoke and hate breathing smokers’ guff. I have chronic sinus problems and passive smoke makes me ill. But smoking is legal. Although judging by the moves towards smoke-free campuses, it will soon be effectively impossible to work in a University and be a smoker.

Why? Well Curtin and Adelaide Universities are proudly ‘smoking free’. And this is not a woosey ‘designated smoking areas’ type of smoke free policy. No! Adelaide Uni proudly states that:

In addition to the existing smoke-free environment in our buildings and facilities, all outdoor areas, including gardens, sporting grounds and car parks at the University’s campuses will be soon smoke-free.

Similarly Curtin Uni proudly states that “smoking will be prohibited on all University land”.

Now the benefits of reducing passive smoke are well known – and obvious to ‘sufferers’ like me. And there are lots of smoke-free workplaces. But most University campuses are not like a city office building. Smokers can’t just duck down and huddle in the doorway to light up. University employees and students who are smokers will have to leave campus (either a car ride or non-trivial walk in many cases), break the rule to feed their addiction, have to quit (if they are able to – nicotine is highly addictive and hard to quit), or quit the University. For employees the choice seems clear – if you are a smoker you effectively cannot work at these Universities.

Now, we are not talking about small numbers of staff and students here. An ‘Action on Smoking and Health Australia’ publication notes that

As a minority of students and staff will be smokers (less than 19% in 2007) …

So that is almost one in five staff and students.

Macquarie University seems to have a more balanced approach – and are allowing certain designated ‘smoking’ areas (King Daughter #2 suggests they be sign posted “Walk this way if you want lung cancer”). And I hope that Monash will follow this more balanced approach rather than the Curtin and Adelaide Uni ‘complete bans’.

But the key question – is there any other group in society today who could be legally effectively excluded in this way?


5 Responses to "Are smokers the new oppressed minority?"
  1. Stephen 
    Do a lot more foreign students smoke than domestic students?  Curtin is very dependent on foreign student income.  I wonder whether they will bend the rules a bit to keep foreign students happy.  Let’s see whether they ban all smoking in the university owned accommodation.

  2. I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to shoot up heroin on most University campuses either (granted, heroin isn’t quite as addictive as nicotine).

  3. But the key question – is there any other group in society today who could be legally effectively excluded in this way?

    Oh, the tragic irony. Well may Curtin be proud that “smoking will be prohibited on all University land”, one wonders what those who even Curtin acknowledges almost daily in some form or another the real owners of Curtin land.

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