Revealed: New campus smoking ban ineffective, say UCL students

UCL’s Smoke Free Campus initiative has not deterred students from smoking in and around UCL, London Student has discovered. Students still smoke on campus and next to buildings, despite a referendum voting to ban smoking from UCL earlier this year.

The all-student referendum, held in March 2019, asked “Do you support a plan to prohibit smoking within 20 meters from all UCL premises in order to decrease exposure to second-hand smoke?”

The referendum was initiated following complaints from students to the Provost about smoking on the UCL campus. Following those complaints, Professor Graham Hart and other staff members worked towards a complete smoking ban.

The ban was introduced on September 23, to coincide with the start of the academic year.

In a puff

Joe Myers, a teaching assistant with the School of Management, said: “I haven’t noticed a problem with people smoking too much on the campus,” confirming that students smoking on campus is not an issue, as the ban implies. Myers was unaware that a ban had been implemented but has “seen people smoking” in the last two weeks. 

Several students suggested that Malet Place was where smokers congregated. This appeared to be true as there were students smoking there. Malet Place, which is considered part of the campus, houses the UCL Science Library, the Institute of Making, the Engineering department and Centre for Digital Humanities. 

Arthur Greene, a UCL student and occasional smoker, found the ban to be stupid. He argued that “London air is filthy anyway. So, if the point is to make the UCL air cleaner, it’s only going to be a marginal difference. If you walk down Euston Road for instance, it’s almost like smoking a cigarette.”

Alice Devoy called the ban “restrictive” for forcing students to go far from the campus and buildings for a cigarette. “They shouldn’t expect people to walk 10 minutes away. They should have a smoking area instead. I know people find [smoking] annoying and I do support [the ban] but there should be leniency otherwise people won’t obey it.”

Smoke and mirrors?

Other UCL members said that the ban was “not enforceable because it is an open area” and that there was “no difference” between Malet Place and its adjacent street Torrington Place, which is outside UCL’s campus footprint and therefore beyond the smoking ban. 

A UCL security guard working at Malet Place said, “We have to enforce the rule. Students are not allowed to smoke on the premises.” Asked whether this enforcement would continue no matter the time of day or the number of people on campus, the guard said “Yes, we should still enforce the rule.”

Students said they might move elsewhere or stub out a cigarette if they were asked to. However, they said the ban and enforcement attempts would not deter them from attempting to smoke in the future.

Carol Paige, Democracy, Operations and Community Officer for UCL Student’s Union, has been contacted for comment. 

Photo credit: Michele Theil

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