Utrecht University has already been fined 1800 euros by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) because people were seen smoking on campus. But as DUB reported in December, the university appealed against these penalties.

It argues that the ban is simply not enforceable. The campus covers a wide area and are intersected by strips of public space where the ban does not apply. It would take hundreds of enforcers to patrol the site.

The University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences also stopped enforcing the ban this calendar year. They have received several thousand euros in fines, but point out that permanent enforcement would mean annual costs of two million euros. Their view is that this is disproportionate. Instead, they have put up humorous no-smoking signs on campus.

Smoking areas removed

Campus smoking bans came into force in September 2020. Smoking inside buildings had long been prohibited, but the full campus bans meant people were not allowed to smoke in outside areas either. All ashtrays and smoking areas were removed.

That sometimes leads to problems. Wageningen University & Research refers to ‘a sea of cigarette butts’, as smokers leave their stubs lying around or toss them away in green spaces. The university now organises clean-up operations, which would not be needed if everyone complied with the ban.

Lees meer

Vaping on campus: tasty fruit flavours or ‘worse than smoking’?

The array of smoking options has expanded beyond traditional cigarettes to include the…


The NVWA is the authority that imposes fines in the event of violations. “We check whether higher education institutions are complying with the rules, as the law now states that no one can smoke on campus”, says a spokesperson.

She insists that there is some leeway in how the rules are enforced. Higher education institutions have extensive grounds and there’s always a chance someone could light a cigarette in a quiet corner; as an institution there’s not much you can do about that. “But if there are people smoking right outside the entrance and security fail to act, or teachers simply join in, then it’s a different matter.”

The NVWA does not provide details of the number of fines imposed on institutions, nor does it go into the practical objections. For that information, we have to consult the Ministry of Health.


The ministry insists that the institutions are able to enforce the ban. “No one expects higher education institutions to organise anti-smoking patrols 24/7”, says ministry spokesperson Ruben van Dorssen. “But we do expect adequate action when it comes to signs, detection, information and policies. Institutions should also take smokers to task where appropriate. These are things we continue to expect.”

And with good reason, he argues. “Educational settings should be all about inspiration and growth; smoking goes against those values. The damage caused by smoking – both active and passive – should not be underestimated. Smoking still causes twenty thousand deaths every year.”

But what about the practical objections raised by the institutions? “In terms of enforcement, there has been plenty of understanding since day one. We know it’s hard to combat all smoking on large sites”, Van Dorssen points out. “But the smoking ban is also part of the institutions’ wider social responsibility.”

Lees meer

University Council wants stricter enforcement of smoking ban on campus

According to members of the University Council, stricter enforcement should take place…

Smoke-free generation

Van Dorssen has the impression that the smoking ban is increasingly becoming part of normal life. “Today’s students are used to learning in a smoke-free environment before they come to university. There is still a pressing need to push ahead with making school playgrounds, educational settings and other environments for young people smoke-free, as long as the impact of smoking on our public health is still so huge.”

Paul Blokhuis (ChristenUnie), state secretary at the time, intended for the tightening of the existing smoking ban to be a further deterrent to smoking. One of his considerations was that the school playground is the place where many young people light up their first cigarette. It is the government’s aim to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ by 2040.