Utrecht Science Park to tolerate smoking in four designated zones

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Practically the entire Utrecht Science Park will be smoke free as of April 5. However, there will be four zones on the edges of the campus where smoking will still be tolerated. Two of them are within the University's grounds, which means UU risks getting fined. "We count on understanding because we do our utmost to discourage smoking".

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Since September last year, all education sites must be smoke free to comply with the National Prevention Agreement, which obliges institutions to make their premises smoke free, or risk  getting a considerable fine. In January, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority began to enforce the law.

For Utrecht University, this means that the courtyard of the buildings on the Drift is now smoke free, as well as the enclosed grounds of the International Campus. All outdoor smoking sheds have been removed.

The Utrecht Science Park must also comply with the ban, but demarcating its own grounds proved problematic as the campus is intersected by roads, bicycle paths and a bus lane, not to mention it has green areas and pavements that are public road. In order to clarify where smoking is allowed and where it isn't, the University joined forces with several partners on campus to request both the municipality and the province of Utrecht to make their grounds smoke free as well.

The province agreed a while ago and now the municipality of Utrecht has given its permission, which means that the entire area will be smoke free as of April 5. Although UU initially announced that smokers would be forced to smoke outside the campus, the University has now decided to create four tolerance zones inside the Utrecht Science Park. An exception had already been made for the residents of the student flats located on the campus.

Smoking zone to discourage smoking
Two of these zones will be located on municipal land, and the other two on the University's grounds. “We wanted all four zones to be on municipal land, but we couldn't find the right space for that”, explains UU spokesman Maarten Post. “That's why two zones are on UU territory”.

The idea is to set up the zones in such a way that smokers will be persuaded to quit the habit. “We are asking some of our scientists and students for advice”, says Post. He deems it unlikely that tolerance zones will have a poster with disturbing pictures such as the ones featured on the packets of cigarettes and rolling tobacco.

Risk of being fined
By designating tolerance zones within its grounds, the UU risks getting a fine that can go from 600 euros up to 4500 euros. “We count on understanding, because we do our utmost to discourage smoking. Moreover, these are places on the edges of the smoke-free USP area and we want to prevent possible nuisance in other places. If we do get a fine, then we will have to remove the two zones on University grounds”, says Post. The University's website does state that “a fine can be charged in full or in part to the offender. However, in the first instance we are going to address people and monitor how things are going”.

UU's enforcers are now also allowed to address people who smoke on the municipality's land, although they need not fear a fine on the municipal and provincial grounds. “The area is smoke free”, writes a press officer of the municipality of Utrecht. “That's not a smoking ban. Above all, it must become the norm not to smoke there”.

The four smoking zones in the Utrecht Science Park:
-Between sports centre Olympos and the tram depot
-At the back on the grounds of Veterinary Medicine
-At the parking lot next to the Kruijt building
-On the Universiteitsweg next to the building of the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences

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