In 2009, the Council of the European Union adopted a Recommendation on smoke-free environments. By focusing on measures protecting people from second-hand smoke, the 2009 EU Recommendation achieved a balance between the protection of the non-smokers’ health and the smokers’ rights.
In 2012, all 27 EU Member States had implemented the recommended measures and exposure rates to second-hand smoke had significantly dropped. Gold plating by Member State governments, driven by well funded anti-tobacco lobbies, has overridden the 2009 EU Recommendation on smoke-free environments and introduced smoking bans that go far beyond its core principals.
Europe is now dotted with street, park and beach bans, the prohibition of smoking inside one’s home or car and the extension of smoking bans to vaping. Excessive smoking bans in the open air or in one’s home or car don’t benefit the health of non-smokers and amount to an invasion of smokers’ privacy. Far from promoting an inclusive culture, excessive smoking bans are a way to legally discriminate smokers and ban them from society.
Draconian prohibitions might make politicians look good, but the costs of the measures are borne by others including the hospitality sector, employers, smokers and taxpayers. Facilitating the accommodation of both smokers and non-smokers is a popular policy: seven in ten Europeans think places like cafés and bars should have the legal option to provide a well ventilated, designated smoking room. Best practices drawn from six EU Member States show it is possible to have sensible policies and an inclusive culture by protecting the health of non-smokers without marginalising smokers:
- The law should not restrict smoking in private properties such as houses, apartments, terraces, balconies and gardens.
- Smoking in outdoor areas like parks, beaches and streets shouldn’t be restricted except for situations where minors are present.
- Separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms in airports, train stations, hospitals, prisons, cafés and restaurants should be permitted.
Forest EU is a campaign informing smokers about issues that affect them in the European Union and engaging with stakeholders so the views of informed adults are taken into account. Since 1979, Forest has been the leading voice in defending the rights of tobacco consumers and tolerant non-smokers. Forest EU doesn’t encourage smoking, receives financial support from tobacco manufacturers and doesn’t represent the tobacco industry. For more information, visit forestonline.eu.
A new report from the European smokers’ campaign Forest EU is available at this link.
- Forest EU (2019) Smoking in Society Index
- Council of the European Union (2009) Recommendation of 30 November 2009 on smoke-free environment (2009/C 296/02)
- European Commission (2013), Report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation of 30 November 2009 on Smoke-free Environments
- Stanford University (2007), Real-time measurement of outdoor tobacco smoke particles
- University of British Columbia (2010), Smoking, stigma and tobacco ‘denormalization’: Further reflections on the use of stigma as a public health tool
- Forest EU (2018), Attitudes towards tobacco policies in the European Union