* A complete ban on smoking in Europe’s workplaces, bars and restaurants by 2009 was proposed yesterday by the European Union Health Commissioner, who used to smoke 60 a day. Markos Kyprianou said that there was overwhelming public support for such a ban and one option would be an EU-wide law to enforce prohibition in all enclosed public places.
Four of the EU’s 27 members — the Irish Republic, Italy, Malta and Sweden — have already introduced wideranging public smoking bans, with Britain, Estonia, Finland, France and Lithuania not far behind. Germany, Greece and Mr Kyprianou’s home nation of Cyprus are among those where people have least protection from secondary smoke.
The announcement coincided with the first stage of a smoking ban in French workplaces and hospitals that will be followed next year with prohibition in cafés, restaurants and bars. Mr Kyprianou put the case for the health, social and economic benefits of a total ban, but he was faced immediately with a report from Italy showing that tobacco sales had risen in the past year despite the ban there.
“Smoke-free policies are very popular among European citizens. We have the polling to prove that, and not just among non-smokers but among smokers,” Mr Kyprianou said. “A survey found more than 80 per cent of EU citizens in favour of a ban on smoking in workplaces and indoor public places. The question is, how can we build on the trend towards smoke-free environments in member states, and what should be the extent of the EU’s involvement?
“The fact is that passive smoking does kill. Whoever claims this is not proven is just fooling themselves or others.”
The five options set out for consultation between now and May range from binding legislation for a smoking ban in all public places in Europe to taking no additional measures but trying to enforce existing health and safety directives. The others are: fresh pressure on member states to introduce voluntary measures; sharing best practice to encourage better national legislation; a new EU framework setting out clear expectations for action but stopping short of binding laws.
Mr Kyprianou said that smoking “has gone down in all the countries where there has been a ban”. However, sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products in Italy rose by just over 1 per cent last year despite the widely observed ban.
Cigarette sales fell initially after anti-smoking legislation came into effect in January 2005. The ban, which has been enforced strictly even though 14 million Italians — more than a quarter of the population — smoke, led to a drop in sales of tobacco products in 2005 of 10 million kg (11,000 tonnes), from 102 million kg to 92 million kg. Sales have begun to recover, with more than one million kg more tobacco sold in 2006 than in 2005. This is attributed partly to mild weather, since Italians sit at pavement café tables or smoke outside instead of in their offices.
Establishments catering for smokers have to set up separate rooms with automatically closing doors and smoke extractors. Few have done so.
In Scotland, the numbers giving up smoking doubled in the three months before the ban started there in March last year but that advance fell away soon after the ban came in.
The European Commission said that about one third of the EU’s 480 million population still smoked — almost 38 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women. Tobacco-related cancers, heart and respiratory diseases kill 650,000 Europeans every year, one in seven of all EU deaths.
The Welsh Assembly voted yesterday to introduce Wales’s total ban on April 2 as planned, rather than wait until July 1 to coincide with the ban in England that is due on July 1.
The first offence
"A by-law, understood, if not in print, prohibited smoking on the lawn, a space roped off at its extremity was intended for the use of those to whom a cigar is as much a necessary of life as bread and water. Oblivious of this law, Lord Maidstone was caught in the act within the sacred limits, was ‘tried by his Peers’ and condemned to degradation and banishment. The sentence was immediately carried into effect by the Duke of Richmond (right), who took the noble offender by the collar, and conducted him, through the assembled and delighted throng, to the ‘Cigarette’ there to remain until the ‘weed’ was consumed or laid aside. This little interlude was a very amusing relief to the legitimate performances"