Non-smoking campus – A step too far?

The government has decided that as of 1 August 2020, all school grounds and campuses will have to be completely non-smoking. The Resource journos had visions of bedraggled smokers on the Mansholtlaan verge and asked WUR staff whether they thought this was going too far.
Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek

Text Roelof Kleis, Tessa Louwerens en Luuk Zegers 

Dennis Lammertsma
Animal Ecology researcher at Wageningen Environmental Research, smoker

‘If this measure is about stopping air pollution, then they should also ban all diesel cars from the campus. But it’s probably more about setting a good example for young people. I can understand why that would be a reason to ban smoking at sports clubs, playgrounds and school yards but I don’t think that really applies to a campus. Sure, smoking is unhealthy, but everyone here is old enough to decide for themselves whether to smoke. If you start banning smoking because you don’t want to set the wrong example, you should also stop serving alcohol on campus.’

Annemarie Wagemakers
Associate professor, Health and Society, non-smoker

‘I don’t think this is going too far. A ban like this sends a message that not smoking is the norm. That is nice for non-smokers who have a problem with it, for example when they’re sitting outside in the sun. It could also help the smokers because we know that a lot of smokers would really rather not smoke, only they find it incredibly difficult to stop. Everyone knows it’s bad for your health but education alone doesn’t really help people to stop. Measures such as price increases and smoking bans like this on campus raise the barrier and are a way of saying that we all want to be healthy. I think that in the end, this will do more to help improve people’s health.’

Jan Tervoort
Bachelor’s student, Soil, Water and Atmosphere, non-smoker

‘I don’t personally smoke but I think banning smoking for the whole campus is going way too far. There should be places where smokers can have a cigarette; that wouldn’t be a problem for anyone else. It would be totally ridiculous to ban something entirely that doesn’t bother anyone. I can understand making school grounds, sports fields and playgrounds non-smoking. You want to prevent children from getting into smoking at an early age. But I think students are old enough to make such decisions for themselves. Sometimes, I think the Netherlands goes overboard with all its rules.’

Mariëlle Takes
Communication support officer, Rural Sociology and Sociology of Development and Change

‘Yes, this is going too far. WUR already has plenty of rules. Smokers are people too. I decide for myself whether I smoke. I don’t say anything to people who eat loads of chocolate or have some other addiction, do I? Live and let live. I don’t want to stop smoking, so let me be. I’m fine with the special smoking areas we have now. I don’t want other people to be bothered by my smoking so I take that into account. Here at the Leeuwenborch, we used to have a smoking room at the back of the canteen. That worked well. You often had good chats about work there. But that room had to go when they extended the canteen. I can understand why but I do miss the social aspect. There’s now a smoking place around the corner but no one uses it because you’re standing in the wind.’

Matteo Miglioli
Master’s student, Management, Economics and Consumer Studies, smoker

‘It’s never a good idea to ban things. A ban has never yet improved matters. It simply doesn’t work. On the other hand, I think it would be good to give people on campus information about smoking and to reduce the number of places where you are allowed to smoke. Now I often see cigarette stubs in the grass. That doesn’t fit with Wageningen’s green, sustainable image. But a blanket ban on smoking on campus is going too far. It’s better to give information than to ban it.’

Beatrijs Haverkamp
Researcher, Philosophy, non-smoker

‘Ethically speaking, you can’t really argue against a ban: smoking is really bad for your health because there is a one in four chance of you dying from it. What’s more, smoking encourages smoking. So it’s actually really strange that cigarettes are still being sold, if you think about it. But it is possible to think of reasons why a ban on smoking is undesirable. For example, we’re obsessed by health and so maybe underestimate the value of experiencing the rebellious high of a cigarette. At the same time, a ban will of course make smoking even more of a rebellious act. Or you could say it is a sign of solidarity if university students and lecturers carry on smoking and thereby help reduce the gap in healthy life expectancy between the well-educated and people with less education. That’s quite a nice thought. I’m almost tempted to start smoking…’


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