The 16-24 age range has always presented challenges for tobacco campaigners.
This is the time when young people gain freedoms, head out on their own to study or to work, form new social groups and determine their own lifestyles.
Not surprisingly this is when many start to smoke regularly and the smoking rate rises from 9% of 15 year-olds to 18% of 16 to 24 year olds. As almost nobody starts smoking over the age of 25 this is the period which most influences whether new generations are drawn into tobacco use.
Despite this importance we have few tried and tested interventions to reduce or prevent smoking amongst 16-24 year olds – high price and the reduced visibility of tobacco being two of the strongest options.
At the same time a number of social, cultural and environmental factors contribute to the uptake of smoking and college campuses are one example where the environment in which young people make the transition to independence and adulthood can influence the choices they make.
Do they arrive into a culture where smoking breaks are the norm, where doorways and entrances are visible gathering points for smoking breaks and where smoking is an expected part of the social scene?
Or is tobacco out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion?
ASH Scotland is exploring the development of tobacco-free campuses with several further education colleges. Let us be clear that tobacco-free campuses are not about excluding those who choose to smoke. They simply create environments which are protective and health promoting to all students, staff, contractors and visitors, whether they choose to smoke or not.
A tobacco-free campus aims to,
- ensure campuses present and encourage a tobacco-free culture
- ensure tobacco is not sold or promoted on campus
- end all forms of direct or indirect financial arrangements with tobacco companies
- and ensure staff and students wishing to quit can access support.
We are delighted that in recent months, Ayrshire College made all campus grounds smoke-free and Dundee and Angus College launched their clean air policy. Other colleges are considering following suit.
ASH Scotland is committed to supporting the development of tobacco-free campuses across Scotland and would like to hear from any students, academics or management/facilities staff willing to promote tobacco-free status for their own campus. Please contact Emma Papakyriakou on EPapakyriakou@ashscotland.org.uk or 0131 2209484.