On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of cigarette butts are piled high on a secluded stairway by the water along Erasmus Building. And filters are everywhere along the road by Park Noord. Over a year after the smoking ban, where do all these cigarette butts come from?
Smoking has been banned on university grounds since 1 August 2020, when a national smoking ban came into force in and around educational institutions. So if people want to smoke, they have to leave the campus. The ban applies 24 hours a day and to all tobacco products.
According to a university spokesperson, security staff and stewards ask smokers on campus whether they are aware of the ban and indicate that they’re always willing to talk with staff, students and visitors.
If security staff is unable to convince smokers to stub out their cigarettes, they can then “act according to the rules of procedure”. That means they can call the police, for instance, or issue a fine, although that’s never happened in practice according to a university spokesperson.
The spokesperson is unable to say whether the measures have helped as, until recently, students and staff were hardly on campus.
New smoking zones
Before the smoking ban entered into force in 2020, we had designated smoking zones, including behind Sanders building, on K.P. van der Mandeleplein (in front of Theil building) and between the library and the Sports building.
After speaking with various people, it’s clear that these zones are still popular among smokers, more a year after the ban.
A Business Administration student dressed in a tidy leather jacket is leaning against the Spar wall, smoking a Marlboro light. “They’re sometimes difficult about it here.” He blows cigarette smoke towards a student with long, black curly hair and hairpins. She states: “That smoking ban doesn’t really mean much. Someone will occasionally say something in front of Mandeville and In de Smitse, but not on the rest of the campus.” A Spar employee regularly sees smokers ducking when she passes by in work clothes.
By a row of smoking cigarette stubs on the other side of Sanders building, an In de Smitse employee told us that it “used to be a lot worse”. “A year ago the air was blue everywhere on campus, like you see in some places in the city. It’s different now. But people do still smoke, especially when there’s drink involved.”
A bar employee at Erasmus sports complex, on the other hand, thinks virtually nothing has changed. “You see a lot of people puffing away in front of the building here. Just as many as before the smoking ban. The ban hasn’t made one bit of difference.”
Some people find the total smoking ban unrealistic for smokers. An employee wearing an apron is smoking on the stairway to the largely closed Tinbergen building. “I work in catering here. We get the odd five-minute break, but in that time I can’t just run off campus for a cigarette. It’s simply not realistic.”
The university has been making clear that smokers are not welcome in various ways since August 2020. According to the university, the stickers in two languages posted throughout the campus make clear that smoking is banned, as do the signs at the campus entrances.
And yet the message apparently isn’t clear for everyone.
Three sociology students are walking out of Theile building. One is rolling a Samson brand cigarette, the one with the lion on it, and another is lighting a Gauloises blue. “We always smoke here. Until today, I always thought that the signs meant you couldn’t smoke near the entrance, like you often see on other buildings in the city.”
Library employee Ghazal Hajivandi frequently sees smokers in front of the library building. “Stewards working in front of the library often speak to students and staff about this, but smokers just say they didn’t know they couldn’t smoke there. I just don’t get how they could’ve missed that.”