Zurich University sends smokers packing

One way of coping with exam stress

Students fretting over essay deadlines at Zurich University should be able to breathe more easily thanks to a ban on smoking in all campus buildings.

This content was published on March 27, 2005 - 17:09

The ban, which kicked in as students resumed their studies on Tuesday, is a radical extension to an existing rule that covered only some areas of the university.

Herbert Vogler, the university’s service manager, told swissinfo that the decision to ban smokers from all university buildings was taken last year following complaints from several students.

"People wrote to me complaining that the smoke hanging around in corridors was unbearable," said Vogler, who is responsible for policing the new regulation.

"The philosophy of the ban is that we protect non-smokers rather than forbid smoking. We thought about banning smoking entirely on university grounds, but decided against it as about a third of our students are smokers.

"Now we are practically smoke-free, with smoking permitted in certain zones such as outside terraces."

Anti-smoking lobby

Moves to protect non-smokers are slowly gathering pace in a country long-seen as a haven for tobacco addicts.

Cigarette prices in Switzerland are cheap compared with other European countries and few places are off-limits to smokers.

Geneva University announced a similar smoking ban in October, and canton Ticino in southern Switzerland is threatening to impose restrictions in restaurants, bars and hotels.

The authorities in canton Zurich say they want to get tough on underage smoking by stopping under-18s from purchasing cigarettes.

The proposal forms part of a new health law that has yet to be voted on. Smoking has already been banned in the shopping centre underneath Zurich train station.

"It does help that the media and the public are talking about smoking bans because now people understand it more and accept it more readily," added Vogler.

"A couple of staff members objected to the ban, but we have had only positive reactions from our students and many wrote in to thank us.

"There will be no fines for people caught smoking, but our students have always respected the rules so I am confident that things will go smoothly."

Clean air

History student Mariska Beirne, 32, said she was looking forward to studying in a smoke-free atmosphere.

"The old ban allowed people to smoke inside some buildings and the smoke would float up to the lecture rooms above," she explained.

"There used to be a cloud of smoke hanging over the university and my children would complain that I stank of stale smoke when I got home. Now I can study in an unpolluted environment."

Karen Frei, who studies law, believes that smokers should be driven off campus altogether.

"If people really have to light up then they can get some well-needed exercise at the same time," she said. "I am tired of having to breathe in other people’s second-hand smoke."

Positive effect

Even smokers agree that a ban on smoking in university buildings will have a positive effect.

"I guess when it is colder I will end up smoking less," said 26-year-old politics student Sandro Zimmerli. "I will feel healthier and it is also better for the environment."

History student Michael Kuster struck the only discordant note among students interviewed by swissinfo.

"People could easily avoid the smoking areas so I didn’t see the problem before," he said.

"But there used to be clouds of smoke hanging over the smoking areas so I guess there will be a more friendly environment with better air thanks to the smoking ban."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

Key facts

The previous 1997 ban only covered some university buildings.
The new ban, introduced at the beginning of the summer term, covers all campus buildings.
Geneva University introduced similar measures in October last year.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

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