Coffee shop owners in the Netherlands have been protesting against a smoking ban which came into effect today. It is now illegal to light up in public places including hotels, bars and restaurants.
“We want an exclusion from this law,” said one coffee shop owner, “because 95 percent of the costumers are smoking in our little pubs.”
Ironically, it remains legal to smoke small amounts of pure cannabis joints in coffee shops, but most smokers mix marijuana with tobacco – a combination which could land owners with a fine of up to 2,400 euros under the new law.
The legislation is more flexible than in other EU countries however – allowing cafe and coffee shops to set up a separate room or partition where people can smoke tobacco. The Dutch health ministry has rejected speculation the new law will push people to smoke more cannabis leading to a rise in drug-related problems.
The number of smokers in the Netherlands has dropped since 2000 with only one in four people smoking regularly.