Stellenbosch University sets precedent by banning smoking on Tygerberg campus from start of next year

Wits University does not intend to review its smoking policy in light of the introduction of the country’s first smoke-free campus at Stellenbosch University.

The Stellenbosch campus in Tygerberg will prohibit the smoking of tobacco or tobacco-related products anywhere in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) from the begining of 2019. The prohibition extends to e-cigarettes, hookah pipes and smokeless tobacco products.

Wits, however, will not follow the landmark move. Director of Occupational Health Safety and Environmental Management (OHS&E) Jonathan De Villiers has said that Wits has no immediate plans of reviewing its smoking policy because it is aligned with national legislation.

“The university does not yet have a total smoke-free policy for all campuses however the policy does not permit smoking in any university building and only permits smoking in certain designated outside smoking areas,” he said.

The dean of the FMHS at Stellenbosch Professor Jimmy Volmink said that the faculty was committed to the health and wellness of its staff and students.

“The use of and exposure to tobacco is a major public health concern. Tobacco does not only affect smokers it also harms non-smokers.”

The faculty will provide nicotine-replacement therapy and other similar relief programmes to assist smokers on campus to manage their cravings or to help them quit.

“There will be no designated areas on campus. Research has shown that campuses with full smoke-free policies have more success with adherence than campuses where smoking is allowed in certain areas,” said Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, the FMHS vice dean of research.

The Tygerberg campus will issue two verbal warnings before taking disciplinary actions against those who fail to adhere to the new regulation.

Andrew Elliot, a second-year BEng student at Stellenbosch University, told Wits Vuvuzela, “I can understand the frustration for smokers.”

A number of Wits students believe that a smoke-free policy at Wits would impact the productivity of staff and students.

“In doing that, they won’t stop us. It will decrease smoking, definitely, but it will also decrease the number of people going onto campus and to class,” said Dibona Mokubung, a postgraduate student in Applied Drama.

Mokubung was sceptical about the restrictions on smoking but felt they were necessary.

“I think it’s a good move. There are people who want to quit smoking but can’t because of the people on campus who are still smoking,” he added.

Sellinah Dire, a postgraduate student in Drama Therapy, told Wits Vuvuzela that a policy like Stellenbosch’s was a good idea but raised concerns about the ability of the university to monitor tobacco smokers.

“I think it is a good move. But thinking about the challenges, they would need security guards to work 24 hours to watch out for smokers. Smoking is a hard habit to control,” Dire said.

She added, “In general, smoking affects non-smokers as much. So I think it’s a good move.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits will not be reviewing its smoking policy        Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi

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