Smoking has been completely banned from the premises of educational institutions since 2020. This meant that smoking zones on campus were abolished. Smoking did not stop, however, and the lack of dedicated zones meant that smoking is now mostly practised right next to building entrances. At some other universities, the heavy smoking already led to fines from the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, but EUR has been spared that so far.

When asked, smoking students tell that they are regularly addressed by security guards, but this never leads to sanctions. Nor do the security guards have the means to do so, confirms a university press officer. One smoking student says that a security guard wrote down her student number, but that was mainly symbolic: he threw the piece of paper in the bin after only a few metres. Often, after a warning, students continue smoking a few metres away and are left alone there, according to several student accounts.

Own responsibility

‘At an academic institution like ours, as a student or staff member you can be expected to take your responsibility’

Vice chair Ellen van Schoten

In April last year, the University Council asked the Executive Board for stricter enforcement of the ban. This has not happened so far, confirms a university spokesperson. However, the university administration does try to discourage smoking in other ways. For instance, this academic year, the company Peukenzee visits the campus eight times. Company representatives will collect cigarette butts together with volunteers and ‘positively engage’ with smokers. A pile of cigarette butts was also symbolically placed in a glass revolving door of one of the university buildings, discouraging messages were displayed on digital screens and coffee machines, and there are prohibition signs at some building entrances.

Vice chair of the Executive Board Ellen van Schoten is in charge of campus policy. Above all, she hopes that students and staff take their own responsibility. “As EUR, we are doing our utmost to make a smoke-free campus a reality. We can only do that together. I don’t need to tell you that smoking is unhealthy for yourself and others, nor that all the cigarette butts lying around are incredibly polluting. At an academic institution like ours, as a student or employee you can be expected to take your responsibility. Therefore, let’s normalise it to call each other to account on this: smoking is forbidden within the blue lines of the campus, and outside, at least throw away your own cigarette butts.”

'Enforcement is impossible’

Some universities, such as Utrecht and Amsterdam, have now received fines for the violations. Enforcement is impossible, they say. The Amsterdam institutions Uva and Hva stopped enforcing altogether as of 1 January, because that would cost them 2 million euros a year, while the fines amount to only a few thousand euros. Several universities are challenging their fines in court.

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