Domestic

Smoke Near the Water – Burning Freedom

Myles Parish argues against the smoking ban at UWA.

I’m sick of government. I’m sick of taxation. I’m sick to death of the failure by government to keep its huge schnozz (huger still, considering the current PM) out of our business.

The recent decision by the Gillard Government to use a delightful shade of diarrhoea brown (I refuse to classify it as olive green) for all cigarette packaging is a solution to a problem that does not exist. By law, here in Western Australia, it has been prohibited since 2010 to openly display cigarettes in shops. This new federal law is silly – not only has it caused a waste of money on the part of WA retailers (who hide the cigarettes so that ‘innocent and impressionable teens’) can’t see the pretty pictures on the packets of the delightful Winnie Blues); it also raises issues of federalism and centralism (which, though fun, is not something I want to discuss here in depth).

I find few things more frustrating than the ban on smoking in alfresco areas of cafes, a legislative idiocy pushed by one of State Parliament’s most notorious buzzkillers, Dr Janet Woollard. She’s the one behind the move to ban smoking in motor vehicles as well. If people are going to smoke, isn’t it a good thing that it’s done outside? Most reasonable people are not going to be smoking like chimneys these days anyway. Most reasonable people are going to look around them – if there’s a lot of kids, most reasonable people wouldn’t light up. This is a non-issue, aimed at discriminating against people who are actually doing nothing legally wrong.

But it’s not just government. It’s bureaucratic hacks everywhere. The Administration of UWA have, in their infinite wisdom, decided to ban smoking on campus. I did a bit of research ,aided by some year 3 maths. According to Wikipedia, UWA sits on about 65 hectares of land. I used Google Earth to determine a rough, but damning statistic: easily half of this campus is made up of open grassed areas and lawns; and this does not even take into account the manifold pathways and paved areas.

Take the Great Court in front of the Reid Library. As I sit idly here in the Reid Café, I look over and count the number of people reclining there. I see 23 people. By my rough calculations, that area measures at least 5000 square metres. That is, half a hectare. That is, about 200 square metres per person. That is, thank you very much, about the floorspace of a large 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house. These people are spread out right across the lawn. If someone who does Science is going to try to tell us that there’s a greatly increased risk of cancer by being within 100 metres of someone with a lit cigarette…well, I’d probably scoff.

My point is, there is so much space for the few remaining smokers at UWA to indulge their habit. I walk the length of the campus almost every day, through high traffic areas from Arts to Business, and I’m never, ever bothered by the scent of smoking, because there just are not large numbers of people smoking any more. I should let it be known at this point that I’m not a smoker. I don’t know any smokers (that I can think of off hand). I don’t like being downwind of a cigarette – people who light up at bus stops really annoy me. However, there is so much open space at this university that it is absolutely ridiculous to put a flat ban, campus wide, on cigarette smoking.

Here’s why. People are self-agent. I mean, I know socialists who would like us all to think the same way and do what we’re all told dominate universities. However, the world does not work that way. People will defy these bans, because they can; and frankly, they should. According to an article published online at the Murdoch Independent on March 30th this year, the ban on smoking imposed on the Murdoch University Peel Campus has been directly and openly flouted by a number of students, and a number of quotes from student smokers at the Perth (Murdoch) campus indicates they intend to follow the trend – that certainly says something about the effectiveness of a so-called ‘total ban’.

To be perfectly honest, we’ve now reached the point where smoking should either be totally illegalised, nation-wide – which will cause a rather lucrative black market – or governments and other bodies should take a leaf from their own books and ‘Quit’ telling free citizens what to do. Personally, I support the latter. Smoking is one of the few legal vices left – to paraphrase the immortal Frank Sinatra, ‘no, no, they can’t take that away from me.’

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One thought on “Smoke Near the Water – Burning Freedom

  1. To be frank UWA is allowed to do what it pleases, within reason, on its own property. This article premises that the only reason the university is banning smoking is a conception of cigarette smoke blanketing the students in a choking haze which has been quite rightly dismissed in this article; however there is likely more than one reason the university would do such as thing. Prestige for example, a smoking ban signifies, at the very least superficially, a care for people’s health. This article champions people to do something and I applaud it for that nevertheless there is a freedom for them to not to attend the university and if smokers choose to continue to attend then they do it despite the ban.

    Other than this a well constructed article. Bravo.

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