The last batch of tobacco products at Spar University are sold with a remarkable sticker on them, photo Spar

Spar University to stop selling tobacco from May 31 onwards

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‘Stop smoking, start shagging’. This slogan is now on all tobacco products in the Spar store in De Uithof. Those who want to get one of these packs will have to rush: the supermarket will stop selling tobacco products from May 31 onwards. The supermarket wants to provide students and other customers with healthier products instead. 

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In April and May, the Spar University at the Coïmbrapad is selling cigarettes and other tobacco products with an orange sticker on the packaging. The stickers say ‘Stop smoking, start shagging’. “For some smokers, this is bad news. We want to give it a nice twist with this funny slogan,” says Kyra van Elswijck from Spar University. 

On World No Smoking Day, cigarettes and tobacco will disappear from the supermarket’s product range entirely. The supermarket would like to see a smoke-free campus, and will fill its shelves with more healthy food and drinks. The Spar wants 20 percent of its products to consist of these healthy products. Things like fruit and snack vegetables will be presented together in the Super Healthy Shelve. This shelve is recognizable by its green grass mat. Last summer, the store placed its coolers with healthy products near the entrance.

Van Elswijk says more than half of Spar’s customers wants more attention being paid to health, and they want to be enticed with healthy products. Still, unhealthy food and drinks are bought more often. “There’s a group of people that are really into healthy food, and their voices are heard. This group is not the majority, but they are growing. For others, we’ll still be providing unhealthy guilty pleasure products.”

Own choice
Havo pupil Kiki wants to study journalism at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences after the summer, and came to De Uithof with her friend Loutha to study for their exams in the University Library. She doesn’t smoke herself, and understands the Spar doesn’t want to sell cigarettes anymore. “By selling cigarettes, the Spar projects the image that it supports smoking. Other stores do still sell them, but you have to start somewhere. If cigarettes are harder to find, people won’t buy them as much because it takes more effort.”

Loutha does smoke and is a little more skeptical. “I don’t mind if the Spar stops selling cigarettes, but then smokers will just go to the Primera. It works better if everyone would just stop selling tobacco. I don’t know if the Spar will actually sell more fruit because they’re not selling cigarettes. It’s expensive there. Smokers aren’t just going to quit because a place isn’t selling cigarettes. Provide smokers with places to smoke first and then forbid it.” Kiki: “You would have to have surveillance though, and consequences for people who do smoke. Otherwise it won’t be useful at all and they’ll just smoke outside the zones. I see that happening at the hospital sometimes.”

Health Promotion student Floor is going to quit smoking soon. She thinks tobacco should be as invisible as possible. “It’s good that the Spar is making this statement. I think it should be as hard as possible for people under 18 years old to get cigarettes, but it should be your own choice when you’re an adult. In a few years hardly anyone will still smoke, cigarettes are becoming more expensive and harder to get. I agree 100 percent with the Spar’s intention to sell more healthy products. There’s often a shawarma place at the Coïmbrapad. That’s not healthy either, but why is that not as bad as smoking? 

Threshold
The Spar has nine locations in several university campuses. The mini Spar in the HU building at Heidelberglaan 7 doesn’t sell tobacco. The regular Spar supermarkets will keep selling tobacco for now. Tobacco products will be removed from sight for consumers and locked behind doors. The city supermarkets, like the one on the Mariastraat in the city centre, will do the same later this year. A display prohibition will be in place from 2020 onwards: no stores will be allowed to display tobacco products at all anymore. 

For now, Primera will still sell cigarettes and tobacco, across the street from the Spar, beneath the University Library. Van Elswijk hopes this will soon change. “On many campuses, the Spar is the only store that sells tobacco; the only exception is the USP. We hope our measure lowers the threshold for making campuses smoke-free.” The Primera staff did not wish to comment on whether the store plans to stop selling tobacco. 

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