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April 29, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Head to Head

YES

By Phillipa Webb

 

Alright, I’m about to say something pretty radical here, so be prepared; start quivering your bottom lip and drop your cigarette because this is kind of a new-age idea:

Smoking kills.

The smoke-free campus change means that no-one can smoke on any Victoria University campuses or properties—including Halls of
Residence, the Hunter Lounge, Milk and Honey and outdoor spaces around campus—from 29 April this year.

The decision to go smoke-free was made following a consultation period last year, where staff and students were asked to have their say on whether they were in favour of a smoke-free campus.

Overall, 72 per cent of more than 2400 respondents were in favour of becoming smoke-free.

So you have had your chance to blow smoke against this idea; and like a good and proper democracy, the people have spoken and the people were right.

Currently, you cannot smoke within three metres of a building anyway, so if you are really burning for that tar in your lungs just walk a little bit further out of University property to inhale some poison. God knows you probably need the exercise.

The libertarian argument that you should be able to do whatever you want and probably smoke cigarettes on a rainbow riding a unicorn is incredibly naïve. This is 2013, not the 19th century.

In the 1920s the American tobacco industry boomed because they took advantage of the women’s suffrage movement and marketed cigarettes towards women as “slimming sticks” and as a sexually desirable object—a cigarette symbolised a penis and women were supposed to suck it.

So if you think smoking is all about free choice, you’ve got it wrong.

And today, the smoking industry are still just using you as a pawn in their giant game of let’s-kill-everyone monopoly. The industry are living on Mayfair and they hold the dice, so don’t get all precious and think smoking is your individual choice.

Already the general public of New Zealand are not allowed to smoke in bars, restaurants, schools, and most universities—and now Victoria—have snubbed cigarettes.

The ban at Victoria is just an extension of this push in the right direction to eradicate smoking from our culture. And so far it’s working.

Universities are supposed to be the critic and conscience of society—and it baffles me that most of us are so right on issues like marriage equality but some of us get it so so wrong when it comes to doing what’s best for our health.

Smoking isn’t cool—I’m not saying I’ve never smoked, I’m just saying we don’t need to do it at Uni.

Instead, what’s best for our future, because here’s another radical idea—we are the future— is the need to make these changes now so that our tamariki, our mokopuna, can grow up in a world where 1) anyone can marry anyone, and 2) where no one will be dying or suffering from preventable diseases.

It’s time to stop protesting for the sake of having a tantrum, because institutions like Victoria are just trying to help diminish the health and economic mountains that smoking has created for our country.

And it’s about time they did.

So get a grip and put out your cigarettes on campus. It’s not that hard.

 

Cam’s Response:

Here’s a truly novel new-age idea: people do know that smoking kills. Maybe they used to smoke to subconsciously suck on a tiny penis, but these days people are informed of the dangers and yet they still choose to take it up. Why? Because people derive pleasure from smoking. It de-stresses and acts as a conduit for social interaction. People carrying a packet of Marlboro Reds think it makes them look cool. You might say that it doesn’t, but that’s just an opinion of yours. Why can’t you just let people do as they please? It’s true that 72 per cent of those who responded were in favour of the ban. But when 72 per cent of people were against marriage equality in the dark ages of the 20th century, it didn’t mean it was right to discriminate. The government is already taxing and plain-packaging cigarettes. Victoria doesn’t have to hop on the bandwagon.

 

NO

By Cam Price

 

In our parents’ day, you could smoke on planes. Restaurants had smoking areas, McDonald’s had tinfoil ashtrays on every table, bars were thick with the fog of tobacco smoke and even patients in hospitals were allowed to light up right there in their hospital beds. All of this has changed, and that’s for the better. We get it. Second-hand smoking is bad. It kills bajillions of people who did not consent to inhaling the noxious fumes. But the incrementalist thinking which says we should also prevent people from enjoying a cigarette on the Victoria University campus is predicated on a false premise. The difference is this: non-smokers in enclosed spaces are forced to do so against their will; you can’t pop outside for some fresh air when you’re cruising along at 30,000 feet. But if you don’t want to be subject to passive smoking outside, you can (and should) actively walk away.

On a principled level, there exists no right to fresh air. We don’t ban buses just because people walking along the pavement have to deal with the exhaust fumes. We don’t mandate the use of deodorant just because smelly people offend our olfactory systems. It follows that we shouldn’t stop people from indulging in a durry just because people are too lazy to walk around them, particularly given the fact that in actuality smokers at Victoria are generally a polite and considerate bunch who make a conscious effort to not smoke in areas frequented by non-smokers.

Counterintuitively, this policy will actually increase the likelihood of second-hand smoke. Smokers will congregate on the footpath outside the entrances to the university, meaning that everyone will have to walk through a haze of second-hand smoke to get to class. Whereas before smokers could enjoy the protection of the covered smoking areas on rainy days, they will now huddle under bus shelters to shield themselves from the weather. We’re no scientists, but concentrating smokers in areas where people will be forced to breath in poisonous vapours sounds like a pretty bad way to fight second-hand smoke. And just think of the mountain of butts that will accumulate as a result of the confinement and concentration of smokers.

But what really irks us about this policy is that it is nothing more than some majoritarian whim to clamp down on a helpless minority. Society has this weird tendency to identify a certain group that doesn’t follow the norm, and then pour their disdain on them. People can’t seem to live and let live; they have to tell others that the lives they lead are inferior. It’s much easier for us to abrogate the rights of smokers once we become convinced that smokers are scummy. The practice of ‘othering’ has very real negative consequences for those who are being ‘othered’. That the University is actively encouraging students to engage in this behaviour is appalling. The official advice from the University for if you see someone smoking on campus is that “You can politely remind them that this is a Smokefree campus.”

The response from smokers will be to say “Fuck you and your self-righteousness”, and in the absence of strict enforcement, some people will break the rules. I know I will. And if you dare say anything to me, I’ll most likely apologise and sheepishly put my cigarette out. But I won’t be happy about it.

 

Phillipa’s response:

In our parents’ day, sex between consenting males was illegal, most people didn’t wear seatbelts and asbestos was liberally applied to buildings. Attitudes change. Not overnight—but gradually, through incremental steps as more and more people realise they’re doing something that is hurting themselves and the people around them.

Your acknowledgement that smoking is bad for you doesn’t come from one image of tar-ridden lungs on the pack of cigarettes you purchased because your brain was tricked into thinking it needed dat bac’ to function. It comes from years of incremental steps deeming smoking to be unacceptable in certain places—the latest of which came in 2011 when a National-led Government committed to a goal of New Zealand becoming smoke-free by 2025. That’s right, the party of individual responsibility has set aside the narrow-minded view of “If I smoke over here I won’t hurt anyone but myself”, in favour of promoting messages that are in the collective best interests of the nation. Kudos to Victoria for doing the same.

 

 

VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON WILL BE SMOKE-FREE FROM MONDAY 29 APRIL 2013

A message from Student Health and Counselling Services:

This week there will be an Expo in the Hub to celebrate. It runs from 12 to 2 pm, Monday 29 to Friday 3 May. Staff from Mauri Ora will be there every day. Health promoters and nurses from the Wellington Region will visit throughout the week to provide information and answer questions about quitting smoking. Come and check out the Facebook ‘Smoking Not Our Future’ poster design competition.

There are many health benefits from stopping smoking. You will have more breath and energy, your food will taste better and you will have more money. You will even smell better!

If the thought of stopping smoking is a bit daunting, remember you do not need to do it alone. The Student Health Service is available to provide support, discuss strategies and to prescribe treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy. Make an appointment to see us.

Other ways to get help include:

– Ring Quitline 0800 778 778 for support, advice and information or go to www.quit.org.nz.
– Ring Aukati KaiPaipa 0800 926 257 for a free face-to-face or go to www.aukatikaipaipa.co.nz.

Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand by 2025. Together we can make it happen!

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