171a0232_resized2The University of Canberra started the week by going 100% tobacco free. No smoking or other tobacco use is allowed anywhere on University-controlled property. No ifs or ‘butts’ about it.

The harm that tobacco inflicts on the health of those who consume it, and those who inadvertently inhale second-hand smoke, is well documented. You truly have to have been stranded on Gilligan’s Island (Oops! I just gave away my age) not to be aware of the damaging health-effects of tobacco products. So, as a university with a strong focus on health, UC has put its proverbial money where its mouth is. And we are proud of the decision.

A vast majority of UCites are non-smokers anyway. The small minority that does smoke – including the tiny percentage that are habitual smokers – should draw inspiration from the fact that many before them have managed to leave the habit behind. I recall the days, not long ago, when smoking was ubiquitous. People smoked on planes – the so-called non-smoking seats were a sham – in restaurants, schools, shops… everywhere you could imagine. A colleague told me that when she started working as a bank-teller in the 1980s, she was handed an ash-tray as a standard issue – not for herself, but to put it on the counter every morning so the clients could smoke without interruption! And they did, in numbers. She would empty the tray multiple times each day. We’ve come a long way since then, and it has happened because successive generations saw the wisdom in kicking the habit. Australia is at the forefront of this change. UC has shown courage by going all the way, and I invite all to join in. The help is available.

Let me finish by throwing in an incentive. A bumper sticker on a fellow student’s car during my days at the University of Adelaide read:

“Kiss a non-smoker, taste the difference.”

Is it true? The only way to find out is to try.

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