‘It’s important for us to be a good role model’

| Michaela Nesvarova

Is the upcoming smoking ban on campus a discriminatory measure or will it lead to a healthier UT community? Those were some of the questions discussed during a ‘smoking’ debate held today in Vrijhof by Studium Generale and U-Today.

As of the 30th of March, smoking will be prohibited at the UT campus. Today’s event aimed to foster discussion on what this could mean and to explore the reasons behind the ban. The debate, led by Maaike Platvoet (editor-in-chief U-Today) and Peter Timmerman (director Studium Generale), included UT vice-president Mirjam Bult and researchers and addiction experts Marloes Postel and Marcel Pieterse.

Smoke-free generation

‘Our government aims for a smoke-free generation and has introduced a law prohibiting smoking in educational areas,’ said Mirjam Bult in her opening statement. ‘Research shows that seeing smoking leads to smoking. As a university, we are responsible for the wellbeing of our staff and students, which is why we decided to make the entire campus smoke-free. We don’t ask anyone to stop smoking, but we can provide guidance and help to those who want to quit.’

Postel and Pieterse shared the findings of two studies they conducted on campus. In one they focused directly on smokers, while in another they asked the opinions of all members of the UT community. ‘About 16% of all people on campus are smokers,’ said Pieterse. ‘They all smoke a few times a day and the majority has either tried to or plans to quit smoking. About half of the smokers are ready to accept the ban, while the non-smokers have shown an overwhelming support for it.’

Reasons for smoking

However, the studies revealed that about a third of smokers are against the new policy and often consider it discriminatory. Such an opinion was also expressed by members of the audience today. ‘I’m responsible for my own health,’ said one visitor. ‘If I want to smoke, I can smoke. If I want to drink, I can drink. This ban doesn’t look at the reasons why people smoke. It is not only about being unhealthy. It often reduces stress.’

'I'm responsible for my own health' 

‘I understand that people might feel this as an interference in their personal lives,’ reacted Bult. ‘But it is more important for us to be a good role model. We are an educational institute and we have to be a role model for the rest of the society.’

If it comes to the link between smoking and stress reduction, addiction expert Marcel Pieterse commented: ‘Many addicts think that smoking indeed reduces their stress, but research has shown that it actually makes it worse. Smoking itself creates stress for your body. Once people quit, they find that their stress level reduces in the long-run, which is why I would suggest trying to quit.’

If you see something, say something

‘There is enough space on campus to smoke without bothering anyone’, was another statement open for discussion. Audience was quick to respond: ‘It is not about physical harm. It is about the visual harm. Seeing leads to doing.’ Mirjam Bult agreed, stating that ‘this is exactly why there is the new law and why we are enforcing it this way’.

‘Enforcing’ of the smoking ban, however, will largely be in the hands of the UT community itself, explained Bult. ‘We trust that our staff and students will do their part. We believe they will have the sense of responsibility toward their community. Our number one rule at the university is: if you see behavior that is not in line with the UT’s policy, please address it – in a polite and respectful way. However, we also know that this is a community of smart and creative people. We are sure that there will be a lot of creative solutions for smoking on campus.’

Facts about the smoking ban 

  • The entire UT campus will become a smoke-free zone as of the 30th of March, 2020.
  • All smoking facilities, such as the ‘smoking booths’, will be removed.
  • Smoking will not be allowed anywhere with the exception of residential areas.  You can find the map of the smoke-free area here.
  • Smoking will also be prohibited during all events on campus, including festivals.
  • E-cigarettes are also prohibited.
  • The UT offers support to those who wish to quit smoking. Staff members can join guidance programmes, while students can seek free help through their general practitioner.


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