Wits students failing to comply with the Tobacco Act and the university‘s smoking policy are negatively affecting the health of their fellow students.
According to the Tobacco Act, smoking in public places, such as covered patios, verandas, balconies, walkways and parking areas, is prohibited.
Wits smoking policy stipulates that smoking is not allowed throughout the university‘s campuses except within designated smoking areas outside buildings which are identified by “smoking permitted” signs.
However, many students are unaware of the smoking law and ignore the “no smoking signs”around campus.
“I assumed all places except inside buildings were smoking areas because everybody does it,” says Vireshan Ponnan, a 1st year BSc student.
Section 29 of the Constitution states: “Every person has the right to an environment which is not detrimental to his or health or well being.”
Some Witsies complain that their section 29 right is infringed by students who smoke outside the Matrix and on walkways.
“I am suffering from migraine, the smell of cigarette gives me a headache,” says 3RD year student Mmathapelo Khutone.
Pitjeng Matlaba, 2nd year BSc (maths), says despite the posters prohibiting smoking in Res buildings, students still smoke inside and she “cannot stand the smell of cigarettes”.
Besides the Act stating where you can and cannot smoke, there are also laws that prevent shop owners from selling tobacco products to people under 18.
“Tobacco products may not be sold at any educational institution including tertiary institutions where anyone under the age of 18 years receives education,” said Una van Zyl, CEO of The Institute of Southern Africa (TISA).
“I am 17 and I always buy cigarettes at a shop in the Matrix and they never ask for my ID,” said a 1st year student.
Shops which sell which sell tobacco to under 18s are in breach of the law and are eligible for a fine.
The Wits smoking policy acknowledges that smoking pollutes the environment and is harmful to the health of both smokers and non-smokers.
The university offers assistance to those who wish to quit smoking through the Campus Health and Wellness Centre on the Matrix basement floor.