Hundreds of people have demonstrated in Brussels, angry that Belgium’s smoking ban is being extended early to include cafes and bars.
Smoking has been banned in the Belgian workplace and establishments serving food since 2009, but cafes and casinos that only served snacks were granted temporary exemptions.
Now the constitutional court has decided to make them comply from July 1.
Miriame Delaux, a waitress in a bar in Liege, said: ‘We might as well shut down our business. We are a small cafe in Liege, not in the city centre. We don’t have a terrace, so we might as well just close.’
Brussels bar-owner Jean Dessein added: ‘I perfectly understand that you cannot smoke in a restaurant, but in a cafe where 98 per cent of customers are smoking? No I don’t understand why they have to ban cigarettes.’
Originally the law allowed the exemptions to continue until sometime between January next year and 2014, but the Flemish Anti-Cancer League asked the court to bring that date forward.