31 January 2019

Premises of Utrecht University will become smoke-free in stages

Utrecht University wishes to offer its students and employees a safe and healthy environment. Therefore, it will make its premises smoke-free in stages, with the exception of designated smoking spots where employees, students and visitors may smoke. The university will test in pilots what works and what does not. It will use the expertise of its own experts in behavioural change and organisations that already have smoke-free premises.

"At this moment, the smoking policy of Utrecht University is formulated in a very general way," says Executive Board member Annetje Ottow. "You can smoke outside unless someone else is bothered by it. In practice it is difficult for people to ask a smoker to smoke in a different place, especially if, for example, there is an ashtray next to a bench. We wish to offer all our students and employees a safe and healthy environment.  By making our premises a non-smoking area we want to protect non-smokers from smoke nuisance and passive smoking. We are not  prohibiting smoking, but we are restricting smoking to designated smoking spots. We will also explore in which ways we can support those who  would like to quit smoking.”

Following social trend

By making its premises a non-smoking area, the university follows the social support for various smoke-free initiatives. The smoke-free generation of the Hartstichting, KWF Kankerbestrijding and the Longfonds is an example. This initiative meets increasing support from other organisations, schools and sports clubs that are becoming smoke-free. The government has recently concluded a so-called prevention agreement.  Primary schools, secondary schools and VET schools are already obligated to make their premises smoke-free as from 1 August 2020. Annetje Ottow: “At this moment, it is not clear yet if this regulation will apply to higher vocational education colleges and universities. We are already taking anticipatory measures  though.”

Use expertise of others

In the near future, the university will consult with organisations that have already made their premises smoke-free, such as Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and UMC Utrecht, and also with faculties that are experimenting with a tightened smoking policy, like the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. What can the university learn from this? What does and does not work?  The UU will also consult with the municipality, other organisations at the Utrecht Science Park and local residents. In addition, expertise from Trimbos Institute and the university’s own researchers on behavioural change will be used.

Phased introduction

A pilot will start on the Leuvenplein (between Administration building and Ruppert building) as this area is being renovated. Additionally, a team will start at the University Library in the city centre. The project team will collect input from employees and students regarding, for example, the location of the smoking facility. You can read updates on the pilots on the intranet and students’ website among others.

More information

Maarten Post, spokesman Executive Board, m.a.g.post@uu.nl