TU/e wants to inform and help smokers, “not beat them over the head”

An almost smoke-free generation by 2040, with a smoking rate of no more than five percent of the population. The ambitions of the Dutch government are clear, and the same can be said about the national smoking ban for schools that will come into effect on August 1. TU/e’s campus, too, will become a largely smoke-free zone from that date. A campaign, which will be held mostly online due to the corona crisis, designed to not only prepare smokers for this but to help them as well, starts today.

photo Chris Hellyar / Shutterstock

Even though research and applied sciences universities, with their somewhat different operational management and terrains, occupied an ‘exceptional position’ in the entire runup and discussions, the smoking ban is a fact, “and we will have to comply with it,” says Health & Safety and Environment coordinator Peter van de Burgt, who is also project leader ‘smoke-free campus’ at TU/e.

Just how smoke-free TU/e’s campus will become exactly can be seen on the TU/e map developed by the project group. The red line marks the locations where it will still be allowed to smoke as of August 1 (outside of the line), and where it won’t (inside the line). The university buildings have been smoke-free since 2004; as of August 1, most of the outside areas will become smoke-free as well.

Read on below the map.

The park-like area between the Dommel and the Kennedylaan on the westside of campus is an exception. The same applies to the Catalyst and Twinning Center buildings on the eastside, which also won’t become smoke-free areas for the time being. This was decided at the request of the businesses located there, Van de Burgt says, one of the reasons being that a considerable number of people in these buildings are smokers. “That option was possible because there aren’t any student activities there.” However, the project leader emphasizes: “We will continue our dialogue with these businesses, and they’re always welcome to join in.”

The area surrounding residential towers Luna and Aurora will also become smoke-free, including, for example, the terrace of community café Hubble. The responsible housing corporations decide what is and what isn’t allowed inside these buildings, “that’s something we as TU/e have no say in.”

Events smoke-free as well

It has been definitively decided that the smoking ban that will come into effect on August 1 will also apply to all events that usually take place on campus on a regular basis. Events organized by external parties are no exception. Van de Burgt can’t say with certainty whether third parties will look for alternative locations as a consequence. “It will also be a matter of getting used to the new situation.”

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) is in charge of enforcement and will impose penalties when the smoking ban is violated in schools, or at TU/e. Partly due to the corona crisis, this will not happen immediately as of August 1, but no sooner than January 1, “so that organizations will have a bit more time to properly implement the smoking ban.” If the NVWA controllers register a violation of the smoking ban, it could mean the university has to pay an administrative fine of 4500 euros per violation. TU/e could then consider imposing the penalty on the individual who violated the ban.

I hear more and more people around me say: ‘I think I’ll quit smoking now’

Peter van de Burgt
TU/e project leader ‘smoke-free campus’

Van de Burgt can’t say just how often TU/e can reasonably expect to see NVWA controllers on its premises. “I have the impression that their focus will lie more on high schools in first instance.”

‘Not an authoritarian organization’

TU/e’s terrain stewards will however supervise compliance with the smoking ban as of August 1, with support from security officers - and they will call people who are smoking in areas where it isn’t allowed into account. Van de Burgt: “The intention is to talk to people first, to inform them and persuade them to do the right thing, without beating them over the head with all kinds of measures. We are a relatively open university: we don’t want to be an authoritarian organization.”

The project group was ready and geared up to draw people’s attention to the smoking ban in all kinds of informative and playful ways, but those plans were thwarted by the corona crisis - TU/e’s campus is and will remain practically deserted for the time being. That is why communication on the smoking ban will take place mostly online for now. People who return to campus in the coming weeks and months will be confronted with several visual reminders, both inside and outside, such as banners, ‘smoke-free generation’ signs located at the campus entrances among other places, and paving stones with logo and stickers in the former smoking areas - where the ashtrays will of course have been removed by that time.

Read on below the image.

The overall slogan is ‘Change is in the air,’ “the message we want to convey with that is that we aim to make the campus even healthier.” You can find all relevant information at tue.nl/smoke-free. Starting today, people can also go to that site to sign up for TU/e’s ‘Stop smoking’ course in collaboration with the company SineFuma. This course was supposed to start at the end of May, but was postponed until October due to the corona crisis. Van de Burgt: “It was suggested for a moment that we offer the course online, but that won’t work for people who are used to smoking.”


According to Van de Burgt, TU/e is keen not to leave smokers - who make up twelve to seventeen percent of people at Dutch research and applied sciences universities, according to Statistics Netherlands - to their fate. “You can be as straightforward as you like when implementing legislation. But you can also say: ‘We realize that this could be quite difficult to some people.’ I do however hear more and more people around me say: ‘I think I’ll quit smoking now’.”

In principle, three course groups will start for these people at TU/e in October, including one for non-Dutch speakers. More such groups could be organized should a significant number of people show an interest, Van de Burgt says. Each group consists of a maximum of sixteen participants who get to work in seven or eight sessions. Course provider SineFuma says that experience has shown that an average of about 85 percent of participants quit smoking within four months. “Although the extent in which they relapse into their old habits does somewhat depend on the people themselves as well,” Van de Burgt adds.

Due to the corona measures, it’s still not entirely certain whether the course will be held in the Student Sports Center, which was the originally proposed location. “In any event, it still remains unclear at this point, given the one-and-a-half-meter measure, just how everything will be organized exactly.”

The costs of course participation will be fully covered by health insurance; in those exceptional cases where this should turn out not to be the case, TU/e will cover these costs.

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