Action on Smoking and Health Australia

Action on Smoking and Health Australia is an information resource for anyone interested in smoking’s effects and how to prevent smoking take up and habituation. The guide below is just one example of the information tools available on this site.

Guide for Tobacco-Free Universities

Smoking policy guide for Australian universities.

Purpose of this guide

There are health, legal and moral obligations for workplaces to be made safe. All Australian tertiary institutions have some form of tobacco-free policy in place to protect the health of students, staff and visitors. Some policies are excellent; others have deficiencies and should be improved.

A survey by ASH Australia in 2007 of 39 universities (of which 34 responded) found that most policies are neither comprehensive nor in line with best practice. Matching policy with best practice is critical when young people are exposed to tobacco smoke because they carry the real health harms of involuntary smoke exposure so much longer.

The aim of this guide is to urge campus managers and administrators to review and improve their tobacco-free policies to include three key elements:

  1. An effective tobacco-free policy to reduce involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed places and crowded outdoor areas;
  2. An end to all forms of tobacco sales and promotion on campus; and
  3. An ethically and socially responsible mandatory standard or core principle that ensures that the institution, its staff and students are not financially or materially associated through the institution with the tobacco industry.

This guide outlines how to create a comprehensive tobacco-free campus using a selection of the best examples from universities in Australia and some leading universities in other countries.

Tobacco facts

  1. Around 5 million people die each year from tobacco including nearly 16,000 Australians. Secondhand smoke (SHS) from other people’s cigarettes causes several diseases in non-smokers – and young people are particularly vulnerable. SHS cannot be controlled by ventilation, air cleaning or spatial separation of smokers from non-smokers. It can cause significant exposure and health harm even in unenclosed areas.
  2. Most indoor areas of workplaces and many public places are required by law to be smokefree. Smoking in any working area is inconsistent with an employer’s obligation to maintain a safe and healthy workplace under Occupational Health and Safety laws. Signage on its own is not enough to achieve a high rate of compliance.
  3. The tobacco industry has a long history of misleading and deceiving governments, scientific communities and the public – at great cost to human life. For decades the tobacco industry funded research to create doubt and to undermine medical evidence for the purpose of deceiving smokers and delaying or weakening government interventions.
  4. The sale and promotion of tobacco products on campus is often the responsibility of student associations and campus administration; and although tobacco companies argue that these are legal products, it is neither ethical nor acceptable to profit from the sale of an addictive product that kills half of its regular users.
  5. Australia is one of 160 countries that have ratified the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) – an international treaty that includes commitments to making smokefree environments the norm (Article 8) and to protect public health policies from interference by the tobacco industry (Article 5.3).

What is a tobacco-free campus policy?

Every campus should officially adopt not only a “smoke-free” policy to protect staff, students and visitors from exposure to SHS but also a comprehensive “tobacco-free” policy to remove all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sale; and to end any financial or material connections with the tobacco industry or related third parties.

What about exemptions to smoking restrictions?

As a minority of students and staff will be smokers (less than 19% in 2007), managers need to decide, in consultation with staff and students, if the campus should establish designated outdoor smoking areas, how many and if they should be phased out at a later date. Where designated smoking areas are established, consideration should be given to reducing the risks associated with smoke-drift into access areas and indoor workplaces.

Risk-reducing strategies for designated smoking areas include:

  • limiting the number of designated areas;
  • ensuring that the area is away from cross-traffic, access routes or walkways, air conditioning equipment, and building entrances;
  • providing receptacles to dispose of cigarette butts;
  • providing clear signs stating that designated smoking areas are for smoking only, and that smoking is not permitted elsewhere on campus; and
  • evaluating these smoking areas as part of a policy review.

Key elements of a tobacco-free policy

A written policy needs to include the following key elements.

Research funding and student scholarships

Funds for research projects or grants, or student scholarships, must not be accepted from the tobacco industry or related third parties.

Leading Australian universities have policies banning both direct and indirect research grants. Example: UNSW policy (2007) says it: … will not knowingly accept funding or other forms of support, other than via government levies, charges and taxation, from the tobacco industry or from any agencies or foundations where the tobacco industry has an influence, either directly or indirectly, in the decision making processes.


Campus officials, staff, advisers, student association office-holders or other persons representing the campus must not accept gifts or enter into any arrangement, association or partnership with representatives of the tobacco industry either directly or indirectly.

Example: Edith Cowan University (2007) says it: … will not do, or allow, anything which may directly or indirectly encourage or support the use of tobacco products… will not accept sponsorship whether by payment of money or otherwise form or enter into any association or other arrangement with any person who encourages or supports the use of tobacco products in any way, whether by direct funding, by advertising, by sponsorship, by the gift or loan of goods or services or by any other means.

Financial connections

Investment strategies involving tobacco companies either directly or indirectly are prohibited or will be phased out by a set date.

Example: The governing council at Canada’s Toronto University adopted an Advisory Board Report on Tobacco which gave general instructions to the university’s investment group to divest from any companies that fell under the guidelines provided in the advisory report.

Some Australian universities also have policies opposing all forms of investment in tobacco companies. Example: The Queensland University of Technology (2007) policy says: The University does not invest in any tobacco companies, either directly or indirectly, through the investment strategies of its investment fund manager.

Career events and recruitment of students

Companies that manufacture or sell tobacco products are excluded from participating in campus careers fairs or other vocational or recruitment activities.

Leading Australian universities specifically rule out partnerships with the tobacco industry. Example: Deakin University says it … will not accept funding from, or enter into any partnership or other arrangement with the tobacco industry. [“Partnership or other arrangement” includes research contracts, consultancies, development of teaching programs, access to University facilities. This would prohibit tobacco companies from participating in careers fairs and recruitment activities organised by the University.]

Smokefree public areas, buildings and vehicles

All campus properties including residence halls are smokefree. Outdoor crowded areas are smokefree and smoking may be restricted to selected outdoor designated smoking areas that are far enough away from building entrances, thoroughfares and openings such as ventilation ducts, doors and windows to eliminate smoke-drift.

It’s a growing international trend for  campuses to introduce smokefree policies. At least 260 US campuses are 100% smokefree, indoors and out.

Example: Stanford University School of  Medicine has a smokefree policy covering its entire campus and vehicles. See policy at

All Australian universities have some form  of smokefree workplace policy to comply with relevant laws. Going further, Newcastle University has proposed a revision “to phase in a completely smokefree University by 2010”.

Tobacco advertising and sales

All forms of tobacco advertising and sales of tobacco products in retail outlets or from vending machines are prohibited.

Some universities have phased out on-campus tobacco sales, including Curtin University, Macquarie University and the University of South Australia.

On campus quit resources

Evidence-based and accessible tobacco cessation resources are provided and promoted as part of health services offered to students and staff.

Example: The University of Canterbury, New Zealand, offers its staff and students free consultation and counselling, cessation  therapies, and self-help publications.

Sample policy for a tobacco-free campus

Tobacco-free Policy for (name of legal entity)


The (entity) recognises that we have a responsibility to students and staff to provide a safe and healthy environment.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful and regulations (name them) require our buildings and campus to be smokefree (by or since specified date). This institution further recognises its social responsibility not to encourage tobacco use nor to support the tobacco industry in promoting lethal, addictive products.

Who is affected by the Policy

This policy applies to all people who enter the property including managers, staff, students, leaseholders, contractors and all other visitors to (name of campus).


Campus properties designated as tobacco-free, include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Workplaces, lecture halls, access corridors and campus vehicles;
  • Residence halls;
  • Eating and hospitality areas;
  • Toilets and change rooms;
  • Outdoor crowded areas including sports fields; and
  • Outdoor walkways and entrances used by people to access and exit buildings.

[Include a map of the campus that clearly shows all the smoke-free areas and if and where smoking may be permitted in an outdoor designated smoking area].


The campus is tobacco-free and there are no exemptions. [If a designated outdoor smoking area is permitted, then it will be located away from public view and identified in the policy, with clear signage as follows: “DESIGNATED SMOKING AREA. This area is designated for outdoor smoking only. No smoking is permitted anywhere. Penalties apply.”]


Staff will be trained in how to enforce the policy. Any person smoking will politely be asked to stop and reminded about the tobacco-free policy. If the offence continues, a second verbal warning will be issued. If this warning is ignored, a penalty will be issued. A campus contact telephone number will be promoted for breaches or feedback.


This institution will not advertise, promote or allow the sale of tobacco products in any form on its premises, including from vending machines.


This institution will not accept funds for research projects, grants, student scholarships or other material considerations from the tobacco industry or related third parties.


Campus officials, staff, advisors or other persons representing the campus shall not accept free gifts or enter into any arrangement, association, partnership with representatives of the tobacco industry directly or indirectly.


Investment strategies involving tobacco companies either directly or indirectly are prohibited or will be phased out by (specify date).


Companies that manufacture or sell tobacco products are excluded from participating in campus careers fairs or other vocational or recruitment activities.


Evidence-based cessation support services will be encouraged and provided on campus.


The commencement date for the policy is from (specify the date).


This policy will be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that the policy is sustained, effective and up to date.

Signed and dated by management of (entity)