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Health minister to study Irishand Italian smoking bans

Published on 28/02/2005

28 February 2005

BRUSSELS – Belgium’s Health Minister Rudy Demotte left on Monday for a four-day trip to study the smoking bans in Ireland and Italy.

In an interview with the Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure, Demotte hinted strongly that he will push for a similar ban when he returns home.

When he was asked whether he had already made up his mind to ban smoking in public places here, he replied: “We will look to better understand the motivations of our Irish and Italian friends, the necessary delays for applying such a measure, the reactions both from the professionals in the sector as well as from consumers.”

Later, he added: “What I hope is that those opposed to a total ban have their views changed by the examples they will be able to see in Ireland and Italy.”

The minister is taking with him representatives from the Belgian hotel, restaurant and bar federations and they will meet politicians, experts and landlords in Ireland and Italy.

When Demotte was asked why he had singled Ireland and Italy out to study when other countries had also introduced bans he said it was because they were countries where a ban had been least expected.

“Their decision to ban smoking in restaurants and cafes goes against the cliches, against all the standard ideas,” he said.

“Against those of latin Italy, a carefree place where any ban would be out of the question; and it goes against those ideas of an Ireland covered with pubs where the beer flows abundantly in an environment full of smoke,” he said.

“And those two countries, those two populations, have taken the side of the health of their citizens,” he added.

He also stressed his own personal commitment to fighting smoking.

“I’ve done more in two years in this area than all my predecessors put together – by banning tobacco sale to under 16s, introducing non-smoking trains, the rules on work places, pressure on prices, improving the messages on cigarette packets,” he said.

He said he could have introduced an authoritarian measure in the Horeca sector, but said he preferred to take a “negotiated” decision.

When he was asked about the views of those running hotels, restaurants and bars, he said that many weren’t happy about a suggestion that they increase non-smoking sections in their establishments to at least three-quarters of the area, claiming it would be too expensive.

“My impression is that the best thing would be to ban smoking in restaurants, with the possibility of developing isolated smoking rooms,” said Demotte.

“When it comes to cafes, it’s a different question, for social and cultural reasons.”

He insisted, though, that he had to take a decision on some kind of ban to protect people’s right to breathe clean air.

“It’s a collective right which applies to non-smokers, almost 80 percent of the population, but also to smokers, many of whom are also in favour of smoke-free restaurants,” he said.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news