Austria antismoking, Austria anti-smoking, Austria smoking ban

Weak Austrian Antismoking Laws Could Point to European Trend

January 02, 2009 03:00 PM
by Josh Katz
Austria applies its antismoking laws this month, but some say the lax nature of the legislation reveals the similar weakness of such laws throughout Europe.

Smoking Laws in Austria Reveal European Smoking Law Loopholes

This month, Austria will join the ranks of European countries that have implemented public antismoking laws. Austria has one of the highest smoking rates on the continent, but is one of the last European nations to implement such smoking legislation, and its restrictions contain many loopholes.

For example, while larger establishments are required to designate at least half of their space as a nonsmoking area, small eateries and bars are not forced to abide by the mandate, according to The Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, smoking is still permitted in college dorms, and tobacco companies can still dispense cigarettes for free.

With smaller establishments having the choice to decide their smoking policies, “two thirds of pubs, clubs and cafes have said they will continue to allow smoking, according to the latest survey by the Austrian chamber of commerce (WKOe),” Agence France-Presse reports.

“A lazy compromise,” newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten said of the new smoking measure, claiming that “almost nobody is happy with this law: smokers feel restricted and non-smokers poorly protected.”

Austria’s more lenient smoking laws “highlight a deeper predicament across Europe,” according to the Journal. Italy banned smoking in cafés in 2005, but the country’s Health Ministry says that there has been no reduction in the number of people who smoke. In 2006, Spain prohibited smoking in public places, but people continue to do so in most bars, and most restaurants still permit their customers to smoke.

As Europe struggles with its smoking laws, the number of U.S. adult smokers fell below 20 percent in 2007 for the first time ever. Tigrane Hadengue, cofounder of the Museum of Smoking in Paris, points to the European mindset toward smoking. According to Hadengue, in the United States “a smoker is a source of evil who imposes evil on others. In Europe, it’s seen as part of an art de vivre … the same as eating and drinking.”

Nevertheless, the popular European activity takes its toll. European state-run social-welfare systems are forced to spend more than $100 billion a year on diseases associated with smoking.

Despite the stigma associated with smoking in the United States, President-elect Barack Obama has a history of smoking. He does promise to keep the White House smoke-free, however.

Related Topic: Smoking ban associated with diminished heart attack hospitalizations

The results of a government study released on Dec. 31 indicate that “[a] smoking ban in one Colorado city led to a dramatic drop in heart attack hospitalizations within three years, a sign of just how serious a health threat secondhand smoke is,” according to Newsweek.

This is the longest-running study to associate smoking bans with fewer heart attacks. On July 1, 2003, Pueblo, Colo., prohibited smoking in the workplace and the rate of hospitalized cases fell 41 percent since then. Areas around Pueblo that lacked the smoking ban did not report similar changes.

Background: India implements smoking laws; Netherlands ban results in cannabis use

Earlier this year, India joined Turkey, the Netherlands, France and the U.K. in passing laws to limit smoking in public places.

In an unexpected turn of events, the Netherlands’ decision to ban smoking tobacco at its iconic cafes over the summer may have had the surprising effect of forcing customers to resort to smoking pure cannabis, which is not regulated by the new law.

Reference: Quitting smoking


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