• May 28, 2024

Ban voted down

 Ban voted down

Austria’s lower house of parliament voted yesterday to scrap an impending ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a Reuters story.
The vote was a win for the coalition government and came despite opposition from health campaigners and opposition parties.
The ban, which is due to come into effect in May, would bring Austria more into line with fellow EU countries, many of which have stricter smoke-free legislation.
At present, large restaurants in Austria are required to provide separate smoking and non-smoking areas, but the rules are reportedly not rigidly implemented. Smaller restaurants need not have a separate area if the owner agrees to allow smoking on the premises.
More than half a million people in Austria have signed an official petition calling for the ban to go ahead, embarrassing the ruling coalition of conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), which has championed both the freedom to smoke and direct democracy.
An FPO demand to have the ban scrapped was written into the coalition agreement struck three months ago.
Now that parliament has approved the bill, it has to be passed by the upper house and signed by the president. It is widely expected to pass in the upper house and to be signed into law.
In a statement, the organizers of the petition, the Vienna’s doctors’ association and the country’s main anti-cancer organization, called the vote a uniquely bad example.
The FPO says a smoking ban would be an unnecessary intrusion on individual liberty and an unfair imposition on bar and restaurant owners.
Opponents say public health is more important and point to the cancer risk posed by passive smoking.