Trinity College Dublin stubs out outdoor smoking on campus
From National No Smoking Day onwards, TCD will become a tobacco-free campus
Trinity College Dublin (TCD) will officially become a tobacco-free campus on Wednesday, National No Smoking Day, almost three years after creating tobacco-free zones on its campus.
After initial resistance from the TCD Students’ Union, the momentum to make the campus tobacco-free grew with student support, according to Martina Mullin, health promotion officer at the university.
After it becomes a tobacco-free campus, people will now only be allowed to smoke in two designated smoking shelters and on the perimeter of College Park on the Trinity campus.
In other areas, “student ambassadors” will remind people that they are on a tobacco-free campus. “It won’t be enforced [with fines] but people will be requested not to smoke,” said Mullin. “Research has found that it is more likely to be effective when people are encouraged not to smoke rather than punished for not complying. There will always be a certain cohort who will continue to smoke.”
Research into smoking at Trinity College found over 80 per cent compliance with tobacco-free zones since 2016. Student-led campaigns have been key to the approach. These include the healthy library initiative, where clubs and societies invite students to come and try sessions as an alternative to smoking breaks.
We’re not lecturing people on smoking, but saying that, as a community, we have agreed to this
“The idea is, don’t take a cigarette break – take a frisbee, table tennis, yoga, mindfulness, badminton or board game break,” said Mullin.
To highlight litter created by smoking, a group of students collected cigarette butts outside a problem smoking zone for eight hours and asked students how many butts were in the vase to win a prize. “We will continue with these campaigns throughout the year. We’re not lecturing people on smoking, but saying that, as a community, we have agreed to this,” said Mullin.
Dr David McGrath, head of student health services at TCD, sees the tobacco-free campus initiative as a significant public health issue as part of Trinity’s Health Promoting University strategy. “By creating a smoke-free, cleaner and healthier physical environment, we hope that our students will see and feel the benefits of the policy and carry the tobacco-free ethos with them when they move into the next phase of their lives,” said Dr McGrath.
In becoming tobacco-free, Trinity joins a growing number of campuses across Ireland, including the University of Limerick, which became a tobacco-free campus in June 2018. The institutes of technology in Westport, Carlow and Athlone are also smoke-free campuses. University College Dublin has also embarked on its journey to become a tobacco-free campus. More than 1,700 campuses in the United States are smoke-free.
Dr Paul Kavanagh, consultant in public health medicine with the HSE’s Tobacco Free Ireland programme, said that tobacco-free campuses can help young people to quit and prevent smoking in the first instance.
“Smoking is highest in those under 34, so universities and colleges can create a supportive environment for young adults where they are less likely to start smoking and better enabled to stop smoking,” said Dr Kavanagh.