Romanian parliament bans smoking in bars and playgrounds

Outdoors-only for Romania's smokers. Bucharest, May. [Jake Stimpson/Flickr]

Romania extended a smoking ban on Tuesday (15 December) to include bars and playgrounds, becoming the latest European Union state to strengthen anti-smoking controls.

Prior to the bill, which has been under consideration since 2011, smoking had been banned in state institutions, schools and hospitals, but bars did not have to be smoke-free.

The country, where roughly a third of the population smokes, joins another 17 EU states that have enforced wide-ranging smoke-free legislation, including neighbours Bulgaria and Hungary.

>>Read: Survey reveals most smokers in Southern Europe

Marking the final stage of the process, parliament’s lower house approved the ban on smoking in playgrounds as well as all indoor public spaces, including bars, restaurants and workplaces. The legislation also said the public should be educated about the dangers of smoking.

Some critics of the bill have said it will put an end to the country’s vibrant night life, especially in the capital Bucharest where late closing hours and the freedom to smoke indoors fill venues to the brim.

The ban could also lead to a drop in cigarette sales, a large source of revenue for Romania, which raised 8.3 billion lei ($2 billion) from excise duties on tobacco and cigarettes in 2014, finance ministry data showed.

Prior smoking bans have been loosely enforced. In parliament, a public institution where smoking has been banned for years, it is common to see lawmakers, staff and reporters lighting up.

The EU's tobacco directive was updated in 2014, with the aim of preventing young people from taking up smoking.

The legislation will make it mandatory for all cigarette packs to carry picture warnings covering 65% of their surface. E-cigarettes will be regulated, either as medicinal products, if they claim to help smokers to quit, or as tobacco products.

Moreover, the legislation will ban flavourings in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco that would make the product more attractive by giving it a 'characterising flavour'. Menthol would be banned from 2020. Flavours would be allowed for water pipe tobacco.

Member states would have to put the provisions on tobacco products into effect within two years of the updated directive's date of entry into force.

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