Elderly, sick and disabled win smoking reprieve

21st January 2004, Comments 0 comments

21 January 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Elderly, sick and disabled smokers have been given a reprieve from the government's latest legislative move in the fight against tobacco, with Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst ruling that nursing homes will not need to comply with smoke-free regulations until 2005.

21 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — Elderly, sick and disabled smokers have been given a reprieve from the government's latest legislative move in the fight against tobacco, with Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst ruling that nursing homes will not need to comply with smoke-free regulations until 2005.

Tough anti-smoking legislation that came into effect on 1 January is forcing employers to provide a smoke-free environment for their staff. The new law applies to all companies in the Netherlands and domestic public transport.  Non-compliance can lead to fines.

Only the hospitality sector — made up of cafés, bars and restaurants — and international trains have been spared from the legislation. Despite concerns last year, the nation's infamous coffee shops will not need to provide a smoke-free workplace either.

But in response to criticism, Minister Hoogervorst has agreed to delay the issuing of fines against such nursing homes and psychiatric institutes, allowing residents to continue smoking as per normal for another 12 months.

The minister initially intended to force nursing homes to comply with the smoke-free law from January 2004, but pressure from MPs in the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, resulted in a six-month reprieve.

His latest decision means that nursing homes — including old-age retirement, disabled and healthcare institutes — have until 2005 to comply with the new regulations.

Hoogervorst also said fines already issued were a mistake and did not need to be paid, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

The move comes a specific request was lodged by Liberal VVD MP Edith Schippers, who had asked that nursing homes be granted extra time to develop a no-smoking policy. She also requested that the legislation be applied less stringently.

Schippers said the smoking ban for psychiatric institutes and nursing homes had led to "undesirable and ridiculous" consequences, such as forcing people to only smoke in their room despite the fact they were not always there.

Healthcare group Noord-Limburg had also threatened to launch legal action against the government's legislation after a nursing home in the eastern city of Venlo had been fined for a breach of regulations. Schippers said nursing homes could put the money to better means, public news service NOS reported.

Various MPs also reminded Hoogervorst how difficult it was to get the elderly and psychiatric patients to give up smoking.

Hoogervorst was more than obliging in meeting parliamentary demands, giving nursing homes and psychiatric institutes a year's reprieve from the smoke-free legislation. But at the same time, he also reminded MPs that half of the nation's nursing institutes were already observing the new law without any problems.

The sector will now gain extra time to create smokers' rooms so that non-smokers are not affected by off-hand smoke. The minister has refused to confirm if organisations will receive a subsidy to assist in the construction of these rooms.

Hoogervorst also refused to answer whether he would extend the reprieve next year if some institutes failed to construct smokers' rooms in time.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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