2005-07-29

Intolerance: University Bans Smoking from September

'The University of Glasgow' is to ban smoking in all its buildings, including its 'student unions', seven months before legislation outlaws lighting-up in public places across Scotland. The proposals -- the first of their kind in Britain --will establish an all-out smoking ban on campus, forcing scholars and academics to seek somewhere else to indulge in the habit. In what will be seen as a triple blow to smokers, the university also wants to stop cigarette sales in its shops and bars, and ban smoking in all university-owned accommodation. University chiefs want the plans to be in place by 2005-09-01, three weeks before the start of the Martinmas autumn term. But officials are bracing themselves for opposition with the university's 'rival' student hang-outs, 'The Glasgow University Union' (GUU) and 'The Queen Margaret Union' (QMU), uniting against the move. They argue that it will harm trade, with students opting to use bars in the nearby trendy West End and the city centre. Mr.Jamie Mchale, the 'QMU' president, said:
'There is only one response we can make to this and that is that we are against it; it will affect our business.'
Mr.Niall Rowantree, president of the 'GUU', added:
'In principle, I am opposed to anything that threatens our finances and hampers the choice we can offer members and other students.'
The 'GUU' board is to discuss the early threat of a smoking ban on 2005-08-02 Tuesday. Legal advice is then likely to be taken.
'We have to see what options remain open to us,' Mr.Rowantree said. 'It should be up to the licence holder to decide if people are allowed to smoke on the premises.'
The university has decided to revise its no-smoking policy following pressure from the 'Students Representative Council' (SRC) since 2004-11 last year. The move towards a campus-wide ban was agreed at a meeting of the university's governing body last month. Until now, the Glasgow institution has allowed fully-ventilated smoking rooms in its buildings and licensed premises. But minutes of the last 'University Court' meeting show that all exemptions are to be removed and the policy extended to all buildings, including the unions, official vehicles, the 'College Club' used by professors and lecturers, and the 'Hetherington Research Club', predominantly frequented by postgraduate students.
'Smoking will not be permitted in any university building, department or official vehicle. All public areas in all buildings will be non-smoking,' the minutes state.
The university also wants to get rid of the sight of people puffing on cigarettes on campus by 'making it more difficult for smokers to congregate at the entrances to buildings' and by placing ashtrays 'some distance' away. Concerns about fewer applications from students using university halls of residence and flats have also been set aside. 'Any such impact is likely to be slight and may even be outweighed by an increase in applications from non-smokers,' the 'University Court' minutes claim. The university is seeking a response from student unions about the proposals by the end of 2005-07. A survey by the 'QMU' last year showed that 35.8 per cent of its customers would not use a non-smoking venue, with a further 4.9 per cent undecided. Mr.Mchale said:
'"Cheesy Pop" --our Friday club night, has 1_000 customers. 'If 350 of those chose another venue due to the smoking ban, it would have a damaging impact on our business. 'We would reasonably expect slightly more than 35 per cent to choose another venue because if one or two people in a group smoke, then the whole group tend not to come.'
Mr.Rowantree added:
'I am glad that they gave us a decent notice period to respond to this. 'There is still time to reach a compromise, because as things stand I don't think we are being given a "level playing field". 'We will lose out to other pubs, bars and nightclubs who will not be affected by the smoking ban until next year.'
But Mr.Dan Guy, the 'SRC' president, said:
'A smoking ban is in the interests of the general public, not just students. 'I do understand that the "unions" may feel that they do not have a "level playing field" if the university brings the ban in from 2005-09-01. 'There will be commercial arguments against a ban but a large number of non-smokers may be keen to use the "unions".'
A Glasgow University spokesman confirmed officials had in principle approved a ban on smoking in all university buildings, departments and vehicles, and a ban on the sale of tobacco products on campus from 2005-09-01. She said:
'A high proportion of the university's research effort is directed at improving the health of Scotland through seeking new treatments for smoking-related illnesses such as cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease. 'It is all the more appropriate for us then to ban smoking on our campus in advance of the legislation.'
Ms.Maureen Moore, Chief Executive of 'ASH' ('Action on Smoking and Health') in Scotland, welcomed the university's decision. She said:
'The whole idea of the legislation is to protect the workforce and the public, so "Glasgow University" is to be congratulated for moving that forward. 'This will help young people quit smoking.'
However, other Scottish universities are unlikely to follow Glasgow's early implementation of the smoking ban. Officials at the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen said that although there had been discussions about how it will affect students and staff, no official policy has yet been decided. ASHES TO ASHES A ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and all public places was approved by MSPs last month 2005-06. 'The Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill' will come into force on 2006-03-26. Health Minister Mr.Andy Kerr has said the ban will help smokers give up and protect other people from passive smoking. The ban was approved by 97 votes to 17 with only 'The Conservative and Unionist party' opposed. Attempts to exempt theatre stages and specialist tobacco shops failed. Employers failing to enforce the ban will face fines of up to 2_500_GBP and those caught smoking could be hit with penalties of up to 1_000_GBP. Exemptions include prison cells and residential care centres. The Health Minister said that the smoking bill, first proposed by First Minister Jack Mcconnell in 2004-11, was the most important piece of public health legislation in a generation, and showed that Scotland can lead the rest of the UK. Just 7_000 people in Ireland stopped smoking in the first month of the Irish ban, but tobacco sales have since fallen by only 16 per cent. 'University just weeks from full smoke ban', ARTHUR MACMILLAN, Scotland on Sunday-- amacmillan@scotlandonsunday.com -- 2005-07-29 Links: Scottish Exec smoking in public places consulation Scottish Executive tobacco control action plan ASH Scotland FOREST

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