The big question

Should Australia become a smoke-free society?

Associate Professor Coral Gartner

Research Fellow, School of Public Health
Faculty of Medicine

Burning tobacco and inhaling it is the most harmful way to use nicotine. Cigarettes need to go the way of asbestos. They are an unacceptably harmful, defective drug-delivery system. No other product that kills two-thirds of its users would be allowed to be sold as a general consumer item.

Lower-risk alternatives are available (vaping nicotine, Swedish snus, nicotine lozenges), so it’s time to reconsider how we regulate all nicotine products, including how long combustible cigarettes can be sold by general retailers.

There are regulatory models in-between prohibition and general retailing that Australia should explore to achieve a smoke-free society.

Email: c.gartner@uq.edu.au 
Phone: +61 7 334 65478
Web: researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/1704

Professor Stephen Birch

Director, UQ Centre for the Business and Economics of Health
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law 

Effective smoking control and reduction requires careful understanding of the reasons why people smoke. For some people, smoking provides an important coping mechanism for dealing with life situations.

Simply outlawing smoking would drive smoking ‘underground’ unless we could provide people with alternative and acceptable coping mechanisms.

Tobacco control policies need to be part of broader public health strategies aimed at dealing with factors that cause people to smoke.

Email: stephen.birch@uq.edu.au 
Phone: +61 7 334 69736
Web: researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/20511

Professor John Quiggin

Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow
School of Economics, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law

Yes. Extending the policy to Australia as a whole would prohibit smoking in all public places, but allow people to smoke in their own homes.

From an economic perspective, this policy has three main benefits. First, smoking in public creates negative effects on others. Second, smoking imposes costs on society as a whole through the tax system. Third, most smokers want to quit and have made failed attempts to do so. Policies which prevent them from smoking for part of the day may therefore be welcomed.

The losers from the policy are smokers who do not want to quit, cover their own health costs and would willingly smoke only in places where they do not inconvenience others. Their position could be addressed by the provision of enclosed smoking spaces, such as those found in some airports.

Email: j.quiggin@uq.edu.au 
Phone: +61 7 334 69646
Web: researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/1211

Professor Peter Sly

Director, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Children’s Health and Environment
Faculty of Medicine

There is no justification for smoking tobacco. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine and other addictive substances and class 1 human carcinogens. Second-hand (so-called passive) smoke is similarly dangerous.

UQ is showing leadership by not allowing smoking anywhere on campus from 1 July 2018, not allowing any research to be done funded by the tobacco industry in its broadest sense, and by actively advocating against the continued sale of tobacco products. *

Email: p.sly@uq.edu.au 
Phone: +61 7 3069 7383
Web: researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/1996

Professor Graeme Orr

TC Beirne School of Law
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law

There is currently no power to make national laws on such issues, aside from banning imported products. Enforcing prohibition didn’t turn out well with alcohol in the US – think criminogenic incentives to bootleg, unsafe black-market products and social schisms.

As a non-smoker, I’d love to see all public spaces become smoke-free, but people have to be free to smoke privately.

Email: g.orr@law.uq.edu.au 
Phone: +61 7 336 53014
Web: researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/1781

UQ becomes smoke-free in 2018

In September 2017 UQ announced that it intends to become smoke-free from 1 July 2018.

The decision aligns with UQ’s responsibility and desire to provide healthy and vibrant campuses, and reflects evolving societal norms. A Queensland Government Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into smoking and the use of tobacco at universities, TAFE facilities, and other registered training organisations concluded last year.

Since then the Queensland Government has been working with all universities and higher education institutions in Queensland to reduce the use of tobacco and related products on campuses, with a view to a transition to smoke-free campuses.

What you said...

In response, a poll was posted on the Contact magazine asking readers their opinion on the issue:

"UQ is becoming smoke-free from July 2018. Do you agree that Australia should become a smoke-free society?"

320 people participated in the poll and 275 people responded "yes" to 45 who responded "no".

This high proportion of support is not surprising given UQ’s staff smoking prevalence rate is much lower than that demonstrated across the general Queensland population. That said, it is acknowledged that this policy position will present a personal challenge for some staff and students.

The long lead time between announcement and enforcement of the new policy was designed to provide an opportunity for staff and students to avail themselves of the support options offered to assist to quit smoking, details of which are provided on the  UQ Wellness website.

There is a growing body of evidence for smoke-free campuses, with research finding a link between smoke-free policies and reductions in campus smoking prevalence, second-hand smoke exposure and student perceptions of peer-smoking prevalence.

Both QUT and Australian Catholic University have already introduced smoke-free policies, and it is expected all universities across Queensland will reach a similar position over the coming months.  This reflects the approach adopted by Victorian universities in 2014 and Western Australian universities in 2012.

To have your say on future issues, keep an eye out for new polls and quizzes on the Contact magazine homepage.

Opening video credit: gettyimages/guy113

Credit: gettyimages/Nikiteev_Konstantin

Credit: gettyimages/Nikiteev_Konstantin

Credit: gettyimages/Nikiteev_Konstantin

Credit: gettyimages/Nikiteev_Konstantin

Credit: gettyimages/Nikiteev_Konstantin

Credit: gettyimages/Nikiteev_Konstantin

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