University of Leeds to Stub out Smoking

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The University of Leeds updated its smoking policy yesterday, on National No Smoking Day, announcing its plans to work towards making the campus entirely smoke free by 2025. While the University’s current smoking policy strictly prohibits smoking indoors across all University-owned buildings, the updated policy will ask people not to smoke in all outdoor areas owned by the University too.

This means that, as of 1st August 2019, when the policy comes into full effect, people will be asked not to use smoking products between the hours of 8am and 6pm in locations such as the Terrace beer garden, outside the Edward Boyle library and on the Parkinson Steps. The policy will apply to all staff members, students, visitors and external contractors while they are on campus, 365 days a year, regardless of whether the university is officially closed or out of term time.

In an announcement made on Minerva earlier today, the University announced that the areas within this ‘Smokefree Campus’ include:

  • Main Campus (including LUU and all space within the boundaries of Woodhouse Lane, Clarendon Road, Mount Preston Street, Leeds General Infirmary – LGI – and the inner ring road). 
  • Western Campus (Leeds University Business School – LUBS grounds)
  • Fairbairn House
  • All University-owned and managed residences.
  • All University-owned sports grounds(e.g. Sports Park Weetwood, Bodington Playing Fields).

In order to implement the policy, the University of Leeds is asking staff and students to “engage with and support the policy” rather than asking security or staff members to actively police the smoking ban. The University hopes that, by cultivating a culture where smoking is seen as unusual, people on campus will naturally stop smoking between the hours of 8am and 6pm.

According to the updated smoking policy, this is all part of the University’s “journey” to encourage a “new normal” on campus – “a Smokefree culture where people work, study, research and relax in an environment free from tobacco smoke and where smoking is seen as unusual.” Aligning itself with the aims of Leeds City Council, the NHS, Public Health England and the national Breathe 2025 initiative, the University of Leeds’ policy states that its aims are to:

  • “Protect staff, students and visitors from the harmful effects of smoking behaviour.”
  • “Promote a safe and healthy Smokefree environment for staff, students, contractors and visitors.”
  • “Provide help and support to those who want to quit smoking.”
  • “Ensure that the University complies with legislation.”

The University of Leeds defines ‘smoking products’ as “cigarettes, pipes, cigars, tobacco products (including chewing tobacco), and any device or substance that may be used for the purpose of smoking.” Although students will still be prohibited from using e-cigarettes in and around University buildings, there will be no such restrictions regarding vaping in outdoor spaces for the time being.

The University currently provides quit smoking support on campus for staff and students, including face to face support sessions as well as stop smoking aids where appropriate. You can find out more and see links to other online resources at http://wsh.leeds.ac.uk/info/244/wellbeing/279/quit_smoking_sessions

The updated policy has been met with mixed reactions from students. While some have praised the University’s bold approach to create a Smokefree campus, others have expressed concerns over how the policy will be enforced, and what unexpected effects it might have on their smoking habits. In order to address and alleviate these concerns, the University of Leeds is encouraging its students to share their opinions on the updated policy by filling in an online questionnaire, which you can find here: https://leeds.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/smokefree-campus-2019

Last September, the University of Newcastle, which had been smoke-free for over a year, was criticised for re-introducing designated smoking areas on campus.

The updated policy states that:

Speaking about the decision, a University spokesperson said:

“If people haven’t started smoking by the age of 26, they probably never will. We want to inspire people – and particularly current and future students – with a campus where smoking is unusual. We would like them to choose not to start smoking, or to quit smoking wherever possible to take advantage of all the associated benefits (in terms of not ageing as quickly, staying fitter longer, more cash, better health, longer life,) that choosing not to smoke brings.”

Smoking is the most common cause of preventable death in England. In Leeds, smoking is said to cost the local economy a total of £186 million, including £127.7 million lost in productivity due to smoking, £34 million to the NHS in Leeds, £18.9 million in social care costs and £5.4 million in smoking-related fires.

14.9% of adults in England are current smokers, a figure which is down from down 15.5% in 2016, and 19.8% in 2011. Of these 1.6 million fewer smokers, the fall in smoking prevalence has occurred most among 18-24 year olds. The University believes that these figures “reflect a society where smoking is no longer seen as the norm.”

You can find more information about the updated smoking policy here: http://hr.leeds.ac.uk/smokefree

Robbie Cairns