The end of smoking on campus?

Nils Fischer-Kerrane discusses the plans for a ‘Tobacco-free Trinity’ and the influence and necessity of ‘No Smoking’ signs in general.

As the idea of a ‘Tobacco-Free Trinity’ becomes more and more of a topic for debate around college, one naturally begins to wonder how strictly a general tobacco ban across all of campus will be enforced and also how many reminders will be placed around campus reminding students of the ban. Will every sign that points the way towards the Book of Kells or the closest ATM suddenly be accompanied by its own ‘No Smoking’ sign? What can already be observed is the large and widespread presence of indoor ‘No Smoking’ signs, not only in college buildings, but across the country as a whole. Perhaps a question of equal relevance is whether these are really necessary anymore?


The concept of tobacco-free campuses shows the evolvement of the initial smoking ban which was introduced in March 2004. These signs were  obviously necessary before the ban was implemented when individual businesses and organisations could make their own choices, in relation to allowing patrons to smoke on their premises. They were also probably very necessary in the months, or even years, following the implementation of the ban, where people may have forgotten about the ban and may have been in the habit of smoking in certain buildings.

So then that surely means that nowadays ‘No Smoking’ signs are more likely to be aimed solely towards the older generations, i.e. those who have experienced (what I can imagine, could only have been an exhilarating thrill) being allowed to smoke indoors in public building or towards tourists. If the former is the only reason for the signs to still be present in 2013, it shows a distinct lack of faith in the mental capabilities of these older generations, that after nine years they’re still not trusted to remember by themselves, that smoking indoors in public is not allowed.


The idea of lighting up a cigarette in a library, cinema, aeroplane, etc. is almost unthinkable for our generation; just like the idea of Atomic Kitten being ever-present in the singles charts, or Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson being god pals. While in 2004 these may have seemed regular, everyday things, at one point they become completely absurd and unimaginable.

Similar to our instinct to turn to Google for any question/doubt we have, I think it’s safe to say that the impulse not to smoke indoors is something that has become embedded in the mindset of our generation. We have grown up with it and, perhaps more importantly, have reached the legal age of smoking after the laws had been implemented.  Therefore it was never an issue for us as we cannot compare the situation we have now with one in the past that was any different. We have always had to go outside in order to smoke a cigarette.


When it comes to the rules of the College library (where several of these signs can be observed), there are surely so many more relevant and pressing issues that need to be addressed than that of smoking. Take for instance, the issue of people reserving desks for hours on end during the library high season of April-May. It’s true that most of us know what’s generally concerned to be right and wrong when it comes to library desk etiquette, but it would be no harm for the library to clarify exactly what the rules are and put that up on a sign.

In many ways it would probably make as much sense to put up signs like ‘No racist chanting’ or ‘No nudity’; two activities, which if were to be observed in the college library, would be just as baffling to students as the idea of seeing someone puffing on a cigarette. There are certainly more pressing and relevant issues regarding general rules that could be displayed in the library such as: ‘Facebook chat/notification sounds will not be permitted’, ‘The path through the lower Lecky is not a noise vacuum’, ‘To avoid irritating vibrating noises, mobile phones should be kept in pockets/bags’ and ‘Users of the Berkeley Library are advised to wear several layers of clothing’.

The ridiculousness of this whole issue is highlighted by what can be observed on aeroplanes. The fact that there is an illuminated ‘No Smoking’ sign above every row is very unnecessary. While many of us naturally respond to the seat belt sign going off by unclipping our seatbelts, you have to wonder, in the last ten years, if it has ever occurred that the illuminated ‘No Smoking’ sign on an aeroplane has accidentally been turned off, leading to someone innocently lighting up a cigarette.

All you can hope is that when new planes that are built these days that 1) they don’t feel the need to place so many ‘No Smoking’ signs around the cabin, and 2) these ‘No Smoking’ signs are not illuminated signs that have the option of being turned off.


In a way it can be argued that ‘No Smoking’ signs actually have the potential to do more harm than good. While they may have initially have been implemented as a reminder to smokers not to smoke indoors, surely nowadays they have more power to remind smokers of their general need to smoke. It’s a simple case of word association. In the way a person may see the word “eat” or “food” and immediately become hungry, smokers may see the word “smoking” and suddenly feel the need for a cigarette. This could then lead to these signs having the potential to act as an indirect advertising technique for cigarette companies, simply because they have the capability to increase the cigarette consumption of individual smokers.

There is no doubt that smokers die every day. Therefore, in order for the tobacco companies to remain profitable, the custom of these deceased smokers needs to be replaced in some way. The strict legislation that is in place in this country regarding the advertisement of tobacco products may make it difficult for the companies to attract new customers, but there is always the possibility of simply increasing the tobacco consumption of those who already smoke. If there is any substance to this word association theory, then surely the large and widespread presence of ‘No Smoking’ signs have the potential to achieve this.


For the first time since 2004, the issue of smoking in public has become a major talking point again. Whilst the popular support behind the idea of a tobacco-free College means that we may begin to observe a lot more ‘No Smoking’ signs around campus, perhaps there is also some hope that the college authorities may also realise how unnecessary the current indoor signs are. While we students may not be very reliable when it comes to certain matters, surely we can trusted not to forget the smoking ban, nearly a decade after its introduction.