Friday 17 December 2010


Writes my employer via all-staff email:
From 1 January 2011 the University of Canterbury will be a smokefree campus, ensuring we all benefit by having a healthier place to study, work and live. All University buildings and grounds (including halls of residence, Ilam fields, regional campuses and field stations) are part of the smokefree campus.

In doing this, the University is embracing a wider vision of integrating health into the culture, structures and processes of the University by eliminating Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) exposure for all staff, students and visitors. The University is actively assisting in the protection and improvement of the health of the community.

In addition, becoming a smokefree campus is a positive, substantial and sustainable step towards reducing the University’s environmental impact.
I am curious what environmental goal is furthered by eliminating outdoor smoking on campus. I'm not sure that changing the total quantity of tobacco smoked on campus, even by a few orders of magnitude, would have any effect on any of New Zealand's broader environmental quality measures: greenhouse gas emissions, nighttime smog in winter, carbon monoxide concentrations. The only one that seems potentially plausible would be a reduction in cigarette butts reaching the Avon River, but even there it's ambiguous: less smoking, but a greater proportion of butts being disposed of via storm drains when the ash trays are disappeared.

I'm also rather curious about what other policies might flow from the University's "embracing a wider vision of integrating health into the culture, structures and processes of the University". Linking tuition rates to deviance from ideal BMI seems a good start: taxing unhealthy outcomes is more efficient than taxing inputs where individuals have highly variable and unobservable production functions for healthy outcomes. Further, we ought ban air travel to the United States because of the cancer risks involved with the new backscatter scanners.

The University's policy statement on the matter:
1. Rationale
The University has adopted a comprehensive smoke-free policy which is based on the following general assumptions:
1.4 That successful implementation and on-going compliance of the Policy will require everyone to respond in a courteous and responsible manner.
Rather than say anything discourteous or irresponsible about this, the best of all possible policies at the best of all possible universities, I'll instead note my utter dismay with ACT leader Rodney Hide's support for legislation that would ban the retail display of tobacco in New Zealand. I've heard claims that this was part of a logroll: that it will help ACT secure other policy considerations down the line. I don't believe it. If I had to bet, I'd guess Hide actually supports the legislation as part of the generalized health kick he started a couple of years ago, consumer freedom be damned. Maybe we'll someday see evidence to the contrary in the form of a policy bone being thrown to ACT. But I've bet against it.

The contract above pays $1 if any ACT private member's bill makes it through first reading. That's not the only way ACT can influence policy, but it ought be correlated with their overall chances of influencing policy. And there's zero movement in the contract - not even any trades - since a few days before the vote. Glad I'm not a smoker - not even the purportedly liberal party here will stand up for them.

Meanwhile, the Brits have started fighting back against this kind of nonsense; they're helped by that smoking regs are being imposed from Brussels. If NZ's regulations were being foisted on us by trade agreements with Oz rather than by the Maori Party, I wonder if we'd have had more than 3 MPs vote against them.


  1. Do you think smoking staff/students may bring gumboots onto campus so they can smoke while standing in the Avon River or Okeover Stream?

  2. Wouldn't it be easier to hit the sidewalk on Ilam, Creyke or Clyde road?

  3. So all a smoker has to do is take one step outside university property and keep on puffing... this policy will probably lower over University productivity, but then Universities aren't exactly known for their productivity statistics!!

  4. Personally I find smoking disgusting, however I struggle to see a clear benefit coming from the new policy.

    Currently, smoking is circumscribed to a few specific spots in campus (e.g. near the central library). There is strict enforcement inside buildings, but it is still possible to see some people smoking while walking around campus outside the designated areas.

    On one hand now there is a level of non-compliance, which I expect would be reduced by the new policy. On the other, I expect there will be a reduction of academic and student productivity by a subset of smokers spending time either going outside campus or looking for hidden places to smoke in campus.

    I agree that there will be a further reduction of ETS in campus, which currently is quite small and it is doubtful that has any effect on the health of the university community. However, smoking will move outside campus or will be done at a different time, so there should be no discernible environmental benefit.

    In summary, is the total campus ban on smoking worth the hassle?

  5. 'I'm also rather curious about what other policies might flow from the University's "embracing a wider vision of integrating health into the culture, structures and processes of the University".'

    Let's hope this doesn't include dismissal of strident anti-healthists!

  6. @Luis: I rather expect that the point is a mix of symbolism and trying to induce folks to quit smoking by raising the cost of smoking. I have a hard time believing that the University actually believes that any environmental benefit can be had by banning smoking on campus. It worries me that an institution of higher learning would advocate internal policies based on rationalizations that sound nice, like reducing environmental impacts.

    @Lemmus Stop saying that!!