Tuesday 16 February 2010

Smoking bans in Europe

In Britain, one of the lemons we get sold by the media is that our smoking ban is really no different to those elsewhere. And if the rest of the world is doing it, why grumble?

As I've said before, this really isn't true. The total smoking ban is a phenomenon largely confined to the English-speaking world. I was in the Netherlands last week - and will be again next month for TICAP - of which the BBC reported in 2004:

Dutch clamp down on public smoking

Dutch smokers have begun the New Year with severe restrictions placed on where and when they can light up.

Laws which came into effect at midnight ban smoking in many public places including railway stations, trains, toilets and offices.

Okay, not that "severe", but then in 2008, the BBC told us:

Dutch smoking ban goes into force

A tobacco smoking ban has come into effect in cafes, bars and restaurants in the Netherlands.

The country is following a growing trend across Europe and the world of bans on smoking in public places.

This was followed by widespread protests from the Dutch which, of course, were not reported by the BBC:

Dutch cafe owners rally against smoking ban
Nov 29, 2008

THE HAGUE (AFP) — Dutch cafe owners on Saturday took to the streets of The Hague in protest at a smoking ban they say has seen business drop by up to a third.

And last year, a court ruled that the smoking ban didn't apply to owner-run bars (again, not reported by the Beeb):

Dutch smoking ban is up in the air

The appeals court in Den Bosch has ruled in favour of the owners of a Breda cafe who defied a national smoking ban, effectively repealing the smoking ban for small bars and cafes.

As I saw with my own eyes last week, there is effectively no smoking ban in the Netherlands (not Amsterdam anyway). The places I saw didn't look owner-run to me, and some of them did prohibit smoking, but most didn't. So either the ban is being widely and openly flouted or there's been a change to the law. The point is that I don't know because the issue is not being reported. 

Spain, meanwhile, was reported to have a smoking ban in 2006. Anyone who's been to Spain since knows that the ban's a joke. It hardly applies to any bars at all. But if you relied on the British media you might believe that the Spanish ban was comparable to that of the UK. 

The Spaniards were supposed to bring in a UK-style ban this year but, with half the country opposed to such a measure, that is now looking unlikely:

Anti-smoking ban postponed by Spain in search of consensus

Sources of the Health Ministry on Monday said that a parliamentary debate on tougher anti-smoking legislation has been postponed by the Spanish government in the hope of mustering more support for the controversial plan. The government had intended to present the law during the Spanish European Union presidency in the first half of this year, but may only do so later in the year, the sources said.

It may do so later in the year, but - as this article implies - the intention was to do so while Spain holds the six month EU-presidency. Once that ends, the idea of impressing the EU with tobacco control policies will lose its appeal. The government might decide to deal with some real problems instead, like its 19.5% unemployment rate.

All of which will mean that of the 27 EU states, only 2 - the UK and Ireland - will have a total smoking ban*. So who is really 'in line' with the rest of Europe here?

* Italy, France, Malta and the Scandinavian countries all allow designated smoking rooms


Anonymous said...

The constant in the other nations is a simple one.
The bar owners stood up to it becasue they knew full well it would be disasterous for business.
The bar owners in the UK licked the boot that kicked them and rolled over.
They got the fate they deserved.
And it ain't over yet.

Anonymous said...

It's never over. It never stops with indoor bans. It moves to outdoors next.

In SF, CA, USA, they have announced plans to strictly enforce an already statewide law requiring no outdoor smoking within 25 feet of all buildings. Signs have been popping up all over SF, including many cast in bronze, brass and steel and cemented into the sides of buildings - as if to last 1,000 years or longer.

They plan on banning outdoor smoking in all remaining eating and drinking areas with outdoor seating, so that is now out too.

City has installed extremely large signage bolted to streetlamps warning of $500 fines for outdoor smoking around all city-owned properties, including parks and squares.

And to accompany this, the tobacco retail licensing law, which already bans tobacco retailing at all pharmacies, will be tightened up reducing the number of licensees from several thousand to about 500, then decreasing the numbers yearly until there's eventually none left.

It never, never, ever stops with indoor bans and it never, never is about health. It's about control and prohibition and the more liberal-progressive, as SF, CA, USA and the surrounding Bay Area cities are, the more religiously anti-tobacco they become. Left unchallenged by a docile media and gullible public, the anti-smoking brigade never stops but ploughs along in blitzkrieg form, moving to outdoors and into private homes, another movement taking place currently too.

Beware, once they get started, they never know when to stop.

Tony Palazzolo said...

I'm not always so sure we should blame the press. In some cases the reporter and/or editor are proban. More often than not I think that they only source of information comes from Tobacco Control. They have the money to hire professional PR firms. They know how to deal with the media. Often the reporter only gets information and quotes from our side when they interview a bar owner who "thinks" they will lose money. That is often followed by a quote that "most studies" have concluded that bans are good for business.

I think this will eventually blow over. The press will find it far more interesting to talk about how the public was mislead with junk science. TC will eventually cross that line (kinda hoped that third hand smoke had done it, maybe it will be fourth hand smoke).

Dangermouse said...

I live in London but work in Brussels during the week. I was held up at Lille on Monday due to the Belgian rail crash and could quite happily smoke on the platform - in fact a policeman asked me for a light! There are plenty of bars in Brussels where you can smoke as well. Why can we not do it this way?

Anonymous said...

If an angry smoker wants to do
something about the ban who does he
or she turn to. To a website,to a
blogsite,to a PC,to a Laptop,and then what,read a sad story and call it a day.One North Cheshire
landlord said how he lost interest
in web campaigns because all they told him was how many pubs were closing.His was one of them.

Still waiting

Klaus K said...

I agree with Tony Palazzolo: These bans will eventually be overturned everyone of them in Europe.

It will be because of the economy. Bans are killing the productivity and also the innovation in the private sector, dragging down the whole EU-zone economy. Bans are not just a tough thing for bars and restaurants, although they are hit hardest.

A few corrections to the blog piece: Norway has a total ban like the UK/Irish ban. A lot of places have outside heaters though.

Germany has different bans, since Germany is diffent states like the US. Some of the laws are quite liberal in Germany - others not. Liechtenstein has practically no ban in bars & restaurants after it was overturned in 2009.

Belgium & Austria have very soft bans on bars/restaurants. Croatia and Greece have both softened their bans in 2009, exempting small bars in the Danish way.

The Spanish ban is not a joke - it is very good. It allows all places under 100 m2 to decide for themselves. They just need to have a smoking sign outside. There are local diffenrences in Spain too. Mallorca is good to visit, if your are a smoker.

Many eastern EU countries do not have any bans at all.

Cheer up, my British brothers. And get the word out: We shall overcome ;-)

timbone said...

quote "The bar owners in the UK licked the boot that kicked them and rolled over." unquote

I think the problem in the UK is that the majority of 'bar owners' are not in fact 'bar owners', they are tenants or lease holders (subject to draconian T&Cs). It was the pubcos who rolled over and licked the boots.

Tony Palazzolo said...

I wouldn't count on the economy. In fact the economy is used as an excuse for economic data being off. I live in St Louis, MO USA. The casino across the river is in a state that banned smoking. Their receipts are down 24% and ours went up nearly an identical amount. The Anti's simply said it was the economy - it had to be.

When restaurants and bars fail they will readily point to the economy as the reason.

Christopher Snowdon said...


Ah, but Norway isn't in the EU ; )

By 'a joke', I meant the idea of the Spanish ban being a ban in the British sense. I should have made that clearer. Thanks for additional info.


Tony Palazzolo said...

I probably should clarify my statements. Klaus - I think the economic argument is our strongest. The health arguments are difficult because at least here in the states is that agencies that push them have a good public image. The American Cancer Society is well thought of. They hide very well that they receive a lot of their funding from pharmaceutical interest. When they say second hand smoke is bad - the population generally believes them.
While TC has produced many volumes of economic data showing bans to be of no harm/increase business. The vast majority if not all research from economist show harm to the industry. In part that has helped soften bans here.

I believe that this will end at some point and it will be TC that does it. At some point - information will come out such as "climate gate" and some of these crazy claims such as Third Hand Smoke will be critizised. Then it will be a good story for reporters investigate all these relationships.

I say let them come out with a claim for fourth hand smoke. let them claim that tobacco is deadly for years after someone has smoked in a building (like we can stop them anyway). Essentially they will be their own demise.

Anonymous said...

Tony, I think that, in the UK at least, most people know that that harm from ETS is negligible, so a climate-gate would not help. Non-smokers are just pleased they can walk into any building in the UK and not smell smoke. They know it's an injustice and many are uncomfortable about it, but it is not top of their priority list. We are on our own. Only mass protest will change things. Something on a large scale. Massive popularity of ecigs could do it, as after a few drinks, people will start smoking again. Refusing to give blood. Messing up the next census form. Random group lightings-up.

timbone said...

Does anyone else think that severe smoke bans contributed to the recession?

Tony Palazzolo said...

Timbone - smoking bans are not the reason for the recession. Wish it were that easy. There are a lot of reasons, in part due to banks and in part due to natural tendancy for economic activity to rise and fall.

As far as the population - can only speak for the US and it widely varies. But for the most part the population is not for smoking bans. We just don't get to vote for or against bans. When we do, they put them on small turnout votes and we lose. It was on the ballot three years ago in a local community. They voted it down. It was a high turnout election (mid term elections, tax issues etc). The put it on the most recent election with a small turnout and they passed it 70/30.

Gus from Sweden said...

For the record; it's not really true that UK and Ireland would be the only countries in Europe with blanket smoking bans.
In Sweden, Norway and Finland there is not a single bar (or other place for that matter) where you can smoke indoors. Smoking rooms are allowed, but very few bars have them, and in those rooms you're not allowed to bring drinks or food, so they are pretty useless if you ask me.

Frederique Dupont said...

“Tony Palazzolo on 16 February 2010 14:55 said I quote :
“More often than not I think that they only source of information comes from Tobacco Control. They have the money to hire professional PR firms »

I am a P.R with more than 15 years experiences. I have deal with notorious events as for HNW Clients around the world.
The problem is NOT they do not have the money ….. The problem is: because they are not charge any fees, they do not listen and believe they have the knowledge…. I was involve for 2 years as well as an other man P.R and promoter in London events… in 2 month we did Nationalsmokingdays (4 people and small investment) to show those group in UK what we was capable of…
I have to deal constantly with good intention people not understand nothing about P.R and big ego who believe they knew “how to do better” and They were makeing mistake one after this other one at it is still done to day.
After those two years giving free work, free time, I just move on. My fees are pay + bonus and at least the team I am in charge of as well as I am a part of, work together toward each project accomplishment.
I know this other man (He is a friend) have move on too and have work on quite interesting project with HNW Clients.
So Please let me tell you it is not question “money to hire professional PR firms” It is about pushing away people who could help… I saw the same thing happen toward other professional getting involve at other level push away too…

This is just about very good people with good willing and no competencies or just looking after their own ego…
Therefore, as long it is like that… the door is wild open to this anti….They play in a peace of cake, and people Like Nick Hogan will saddly pay the price...