Mixed feelings about smoking ban University Library city centre

Two enforcers at the Leuvenplein. Photos: DUB

If you’ve got class at the Drift and you want to smoke a cigarette, there’s only one place you’re allowed to do so: in the smoking area. There’s a new smokehouse, a shack really, in the courtyard, near the entrance of the University Library. The smokehouse had previously been located in the centre of the garden, but with the new smoking policy, it’s been moved to a place where the smoke is less likely to cause nuisance to others.

Master’s student Chris (21) agrees with the new policy. “Smoking in front of the doors can be quite bothersome, especially for people with asthma, or for people who are trying to quit smoking.” Maurice (24), also a Master’s student, thinks you should just be able to smoke outdoors. “When I smoke, I want to sit in the sun on a bench. I don’t want to have to stand in a glass house like this. But I also understand you have to stick to the rules.”

A few students are smoking their cigarettes in the shack in the back of the courtyard. Some of them are within the confines of the smoking area, others are in front of them. They all seem to agree, at least, that a specially designated area is unnecessary: as a smoker, you’re already outside. There are enforcers walking around in the area who direct smokers violating the rules to the designated smoking area. If these students had had a say, their tuition fees would not have been spent on cigarette guards.

One student says she feels the smoke shack is a bad idea. “As long as I can stand on the pavement in front of the shack, it’s fine with me,” she says, “but I don’t want to light my cigarette in a claustrophobic room like that. Especially if more people are there as well.” She does think that in the long term, the smoking ban could have an effect if smokers are sent to a separate smoking area. “But for my generation, I don’t think it’ll be any use, because most people who are students now were already able to buy cigarettes when they were 16 years old.”

To make sure everyone’s aware of the new smoking policy, enforcers walk around the Library quad and in the courtyard. They’re there to keep an eye on things, and to confront people who violate the rules and smoke outside of the smoke shack. Ahmad Kamal is one of them. He says he doesn’t have to act very often. He’s been keeping an eye on things for a few days now. “People usually abide by the rules, but I do have to confront people every now and then.”

Students who oppose the new smoking policy, say the enforcers are a waste of their tuition fees. Kamal hasn’t had any angry reactions yet. “And I’m not expecting any. Some people do think they can get away with smoking outside of the shack, you see them trying to hide their cigarette behind their back. Breaks between classes are often short, and people don’t feel like walking all the way to the shack.” Kamal is a smoker himself, and thinks the ban is a good idea. He says that he himself always stands inside the shack when he smokes a cigarette.

Aside from the smoking ban in the city centre, the university has also started a trial run at the Leuvenplein at the Science Park. The plan is to gradually make all UU property smoke-free. The ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is working on a law to make all school environments smoke-free. The government does eventually have plans to include universities en universities of applied sciences. The university wants to pick up on that regulation, as well as the social trend of ‘the smoke-free generation’.