Reporter 418, 6 April 1998


Extract from minutes of The Senate 11 March 1998

Policy on smoking

Consideration was given to a recommendation, sent forward by the Planning and Resources Committee following discussion in the Staff Committee, that smoking be banned in all University buildings and enclosed areas, with the exception of the University Union, student accommodation and perhaps a few catering outlets, and that smoking be likewise prohibited in the main entrances to the University campus.

Introducing the recommendation, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Staff, Professor Hill, explained that the proposal had been sent forward following a survey of departments' views and practices: that survey had suggested that only about an eighth of staff smoked, that about 42 per cent of departments banned smoking altogether, that about a third of departments permitted smoking in single-occupancy offices, and that departments were in general reluctant to set aside smoking areas for use by non-departmental staff. The idea was that the proposed ban would be implemented from a date to be arranged, following further consultations with staff unions and the University Union, and appropriate publicity; and that it would in any case be coupled with the provision of support for staff who wanted to give up smoking.

In the ensuing discussion, very clear support was evident in the Senate for the principle that members of the University and visitors should not have to inhale tobacco smoke during the course of their normal business in the University and for banning smoking in public and communal areas on that basis.

A number of reservations were, however, expressed about the particular proposal before the Senate. It was argued that the consultative exercise underlying the process had been neither wide nor deep enough; that a general ban on smoking would entail a change to conditions of service of staff, and arguably to students' contracts with the University (the point being made in this connection that smoking was more prevalent in the student population than amongst staff); and that further thought should therefore be given to the matter before any decision was taken. Questions were raised also about the practicality of implementing and enforcing the general ban proposed, and attention was drawn to the problems which other organisations had experienced when introducing a blanket prohibition (reference being made in particular to the risks to safety associated with illicit smoking). More generally, the point was made that smoking was addictive, and that many smokers would find it difficult to give up or refrain from smoking on University premises; and several speakers spoke in favour of allowing smoking provided that non-smokers were not subject to tobacco smoke, suggesting, for example, that smoking should be allowed in single-occupancy offices on that proviso. On the other hand, it was acknowledged that a large number of staff did not enjoy single-occupancy accommodation.

The point was made that consideration needed to be given to the issue of liability in the event, for example, that a fire was caused by a cigarette; it was suggested that liabilities might be different depending on whether smoking was prohibited altogether, or allowed at departmental discretion.

In the light of the views expressed, the Senate reached agreement on a proposal to put to the Council.

recommended:

(i) That the Council affirm the principle that members of the University and visitors should not have to inhale tobacco smoke during the course of their normal business in the University, and that, subject to (ii) below, smoking should not therefore be permitted in public and communal areas which staff, students and visitors might have to use during the course of their normal business;

(ii) That further consultations and discussions be initiated on the most effective means of implementing the principles at (i) above, with a view to designating as 'non-smoking' as large a proportion of the campus as possible, whilst recognising the position of smokers.

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