UG should be enforcing smoking policy, but doesn’t have the tools

The university aims to impose sanctions on students and staff who smoke on RUG premises despite the smoking ban. But how do you do that when there is no obligation to show identification?

The board of directors and the university council discussed the issue during Thursday’s board committee meeting.

The anti-smoking policy implemented in 2020 isn’t having the desired effect. Smokers continue to smoke, leading to smoke nuisance and irritated smokers who have nowhere to go. Additionally, the university risks a fine of 6,400 euros from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority for each violation.

Although the UG has not yet received fines, it has received a warning for inadequate enforcement of the smoking ban. Therefore, the university is introducing new policies and intends to enforce them more rigorously.

Sanctions

In cases of ‘aggression or repeated violations’, enforcement officers from Facility Support and building management can ask the student or staff member for their university ID and record the information. If they are caught repeatedly, frequent offenders may face sanctions. Employees may be summoned by their supervisor and potentially face ‘disciplinary measures’. Students may be denied access to UG buildings.

Voluntary identification

However, neither students nor staff are obligated to identify themselves to enforcement officers. ‘No one’s going to voluntarily identify themselves if they know they can be sanctioned’, said Dinie Bouwman with the personnel faction.

Board member Hans Biemans admitted that it is a difficult issue. The UG also doesn’t have the authority to fine people. ‘We have been given the responsibility to enforce this ban, without the means to actually do so. But if something does go wrong, we’re the ones who get fined. There’s nothing to work with here..’

Better communication

The UG also believes that communication regarding the smoking ban can be improved. Despite signs stating ‘smoke-free generation’, many people are unaware that they mean that smoking is prohibited there. Therefore, the board plans to replace those signs with prohibitory signs.

This is a good plan, according to council member Mathieu Paapst with the science faction. ‘The sign doesn’t mean anything to me. Making it clear that it’s not allowed is a good idea.’

Ashtrays

Finally, the UG is in talks with the municipality to reinstall ashtrays at various locations (such as Zernike, the University Library, and the Harmonie square). The university itself is not allowed to facilitate smoking. Therefore, these bins must be placed just outside the UG premises by the municipality.

This solution has helped reduce cigarette litter significantly at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences.

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