University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


When will we get a complete UCPH smoking ban?

Opinion — I'm tired of having to battle through clouds of cigarette smoke to get to work. These useless attempts at finding places where people can smoke without bothering others at the country's largest educational institution are no longer feasible. Solution: a total smoking ban at the University of Copenhagen.

As an employee, I am entitled to a smoke-free working environment. This also includes access to the workplace and to outdoor facilities that are available to employees. Yet every day, when I turn up for work, I have to fight my way through the fumes at the main entrance to the KUA complex (South Campus, ed.) on Njalsgade street, where smokers puff away surrounded by smoking prohibited signs.

The cigarette butts are stubbed on the ground, on the wall, in the bin, or wherever it is most comfortable. The outdoor tables are invaded by smokers when the weather is good, so that the non-smokers are forced to enjoy the sun from the inside through the windows.

The smokers stand there puffing away, unaffected by the surrounding smoking prohibited signs.

Elsewhere, in private companies as well as public institutions like primary and secondary schools, the process is underway towards a complete smoking ban. In several municipalities, primary schools must be completely non-smoking, so teachers and students cannot smoke either indoors (including in teacher’s rooms) or outdoors on the school’s grounds. The same applies to high schools.

The Danish Cancer Society has a target of all young people being non-smokers by the year 2030. At the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (sic!), there is even a research project being conducted with this purpose in mind in the form of a study of how non-smoking can be spread among primary school pupils.

UCPH is a real smoking paradise

These developments have passed by the University of Copenhagen – Denmark’s largest educational institution – unnoticed. High school students need only hold out for a few years and then apply for a place at the University of Copenhagen. Then they can enjoy a real smoking paradise.

Smoking is regulated like in the good old days. Where it is not explicitly prohibited, you can completely legally take a puff. But the places where smoking is forbidden – even marked with large signs and appeals to comply with the smoking ban – the smokers also feel completely free to take a smoke when they feel the urge to do so.

I would like to say that I have observed a few considerate colleagues who go all the way out to the parking lot before they light up, but they are the exceptions to the rule.

In front of the entrance to the older KUA buildings (KUA 1 and 2) they have marked off some squares for non-smokers, but outside these there is free smoking! One day I asked two adult gentlemen, most likely teaching staff, who were standing, smoking in the middle of the non-smoking zone, why they couldn’t stand somewhere else. They cheerfully answered: “Because we are bullies.” They then heartily slapped each other on the back and laughed loudly at their own wit. They were without a doubt from the humanities, but whether they were philosophers or rhetoricians was left hanging among the fumes.

Why on Earth does UCPH facilitate smoking?

My point with this post is not to have a smoking police hired that should be employed to monitor the boundaries between the small non-smoking areas and the large areas set out for free smoking. My purpose is to argue for the only solution to the problem: A comprehensive smoking ban.

There are many good reasons for this, not least health reasons in an educational institution with thousands of young people.

Smokers make a mess. Everyone can see this. The costs of cleaning etc. appear to be seen as unproblematic. There are apparently even allocated funds on South Campus to set up a smoking shelter in the new large space in the open air, so smokers are not bothered by rain, wind and weather. I wonder what it costs? I wonder what the Danish parliament says about this use of taxpayers’ funds?

Why on Earth does UCPH facilitate smoking?

If UCPH does not think that its task is to promote public health, then you could ask yourself whether it is at least obligated to preparing students for the realities of working life, where they will have to face up to the fact that smoking is prohibited at more and more workplaces.

So: A complete smoking ban at the University of Copenhagen. This is a rule that cannot be misunderstood. The smoking party must be ended. UCPH smokers should move out on to Ørestad Boulevard, where they can go out and smoke up with the car traffic. But then even this will end as electric cars take over the roads. During a transitional period, the smoking ban should be monitored until the smokers have understood that their time is over.

The country’s largest educational institution should wake up. It is not about time. It is way past time.