Europe was supposed to be smoke free by the beginning of 2007. And indeed, like a lit fuse, bans on smoking in public places have spread across the continent. After the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Malta and Sweden, Belgium too has fallen into line. Smoking there was outlawed in restaurants and bars more than fifty square metres in size. Now the ban applies, irrespective of size.
Six European countries in all have a total ban on smoking in public places – bars and restaurants included. Belgium and Lithuania joined the club yesterday. France, Great Britain as a whole and Finland are expected to toughen up their restrictions by the end of 2007. So, those who still want to light up in a bar, must travel to Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Portugal, at least until the current regime changes.
France has banned smoking in public places from February this year. But to forestall an outcry from the hospitality industry, restaurants and bars have a year’s grace. One bar in the French town of Albi decided to impose restrictions early. Smokers there are now invited to step on to the terrace. For one of the patrons, it was a step in the right direction: “Rather than putting me on display like a goldfish in a bowl, I have a choice. I can come inside and not smoke or I can stay outside and smoke,” he said. A public smoking ban starts in England in July.
The government has commissioned an anti-smoking ad to run on the TV, the Internet and billboards, until it begins. The ad shows smokers dragged by a fish hook to their traditional smoking spots. With this, the government hopes to cut the number of people who smoke, by showing them how addictive the habit is.