The smoking zones were removed when a national law to establish smoke-free educational areas was introduced in 2020. According to Ari and her friends, this has only made smoking on campus worse. “The campus would be much cleaner if the smoking zones were still there, because now there are cigarettes on the ground all over the place”, says Ari.
University Council member Erin van Gestel raised the issue with the Executive Board after she spoke to several students who complained about it. “The problem has already been brought up at a meeting, where it was concluded that it isn’t really the responsibility of the University Council”, says Van Gestel. “But then I thought: people voted for me. When they ask me if I can do anything about it, it becomes my responsibility.”
Smokers almost always smoke outside the entrances to buildings, causing the smoke to waft inside. “I have severe asthma myself, so I find smokers at the entrances very annoying”, says Van Gestel. According to her and the other members of the University Council, there should be stricter enforcement of the smoking ban, e.g. by means of more frequent checks by security guards or posters at the entrances to buildings. “This doesn’t address the core of the issue, of course, so you also have to look at why people smoke or how you can help them stop. Better enforcement is also in the interests of the university itself, because if the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority comes to check and finds cigarettes on the campus grounds, the university could be fined up to 4,500 euros.”
The Executive Board has promised the Council that it will contact the communication department to explore ways to create greater awareness.
According to Van Gestel, the university must put the health of non-smokers first, followed by that of smokers. “The university always advocates for the health of its students, whether mental or physical”, she says. “The health of non-smokers can be guaranteed by at least removing the smokers from the entrances of buildings. You could also help smokers to quit, for example by offering nicotine patches.”
Nienke studies Communication and Media and smokes on campus from time to time. According to her, the smoking ban is not effective. “I don’t think the university can do much to get people to stop smoking. This is something that needs to be addressed at government level”, she says. “Making educational areas smoke-free is a very good development, of course, but people will always find a way to meet their needs. A smoke-free campus won’t stop them.”