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European Parliament calls for EU-wide smoking ban in workplace

The European Parliament adopted a report here Wednesday calling for a ban on smoking in workplaces across the 27-member European Union.

The report, drafted by MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz, indicated that 650,000 people in the EU die every year from smoking, among them, 80,000 are passive smokers with children and unborn babies being particularly vulnerable. Up to 70% of Europeans are non-smokers, with 86% in favor of a smoking ban at work, 84% in other public places, 61% in bars and pubs, and 77% in restaurants.

The Parliament welcomed the EU Commission’s Green Paper, titled „Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level” and released on Monday. It urged the commission to designate environmental tobacco smoke a class 1 carcinogen and recommended that EU member states impose smoking bans, within two years, in all enclosed workplaces, including catering establishments, as well as in all enclosed public buildings and transport. If these objectives could not be achieved, the commission should submit a proposal for rules on the protection of non-smokers in the field of employment protection by 2011.

The parliament also asked the commission to produce a report on the cost incurred to national health systems and the EU economy as a result of smoking and tobacco smoke. It called on the commission to examine measures such as introducing an EU-wide ban on the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 years of age, allowing cigarette machines to be placed only where they are inaccessible to minors, removing tobacco products from self-service displays in retail outlets and banning distance sales of tobacco products to young people.

The report called on member states to commit themselves „to reducing smoking among youth by at least 50% by 2025” and for the commission to consider „an EU-wide high minimum level of taxation of tobacco products.” To set an example, members of the Parliament vowed to adopt a smoking ban „with no exemptions” in all areas of the Parliament. The House urged the member states to prohibit smoking on public playgrounds within two years. (