Two surprising pieces of news appeared in my timeline this week. First, the Czech Republic are planning to reverse parts, if not all of the smoking ban. Secondly, Austria are planning to do the exact same thing.
Naturally, this has prompted a lot of screaming from the usual suspects, labelling the proposed reversals as “a public health disaster”.
Smoking has been banned indoors in restaurants and pubs, as well as many other enclosed spaces, since May 31, 2017. Similar laws are common across the European Union.
But there has been a backlash against the law, with many people claiming it went too far. Deputies Marek Benda (ODS), Mikuláš Ferjenčík (Pirates) and Patrik Nachter (ANO) have put forward a proposal to ease the restrictions, and some 86 deputies from eight parties out of the 200 members lower house back the idea.
Well, yes. As with the UK smoking ban, it went too far. Remember, it was only meant to be in certain places – such as those places serving food. Initially, there weren’t any plans to have a wide-scale ban on all ‘indoor public places’. Exemptions were discarded almost as soon as they were proposed. Now, at least two countries have decided that enough is enough.
The proposal says that for pubs up to 80 square meters that do not cook food, the owners can decide whether or not the establishment is no smoking.
Special smoking areas would also be allowed in restaurants, sporting facilities, and cultural facilities. The smoking areas would not have service, so wait staff would not be subjected to the smoke. The areas would not be walkthrough, so nonsmokers would not have to go into them, and the rooms would have their own ventilation system. People under 18 would not be allowed to enter. The smoking areas could be up to 30 percent of the entire space.
Covered outdoor gardens would be exempt from the smoking law.
That seems fair enough to me. Plus, the development of such separate areas for smokers & non-smokers is a fairly trivial cost when compared to the amount of business lost by smokers not bothering to patronise the business. This then allows the business to decide if they want to cater to smokers & non-smokers, or just to non-smokers. This also gives the customers a choice.
Who can argue with that?
Then-Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček (ČSSD) had worked for three years to get the law passed, and there were efforts in previous administrations as well.
Doesn’t the fact that a lot of work was involved in getting the ban passed suggest that perhaps many weren’t really in favour?
Under a law passed in 2015, Austria was due to bring in a total ban this May, but now its new government of the conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party have scrapped the plans.
Good for them!
He said restaurants should be free to decide if they want to have smoking sections, where “a citizen has the possibility to decide perhaps to enjoy a cigarette or a pipe or a cigar with their coffee”
This is exactly what should happen. It allows businesses to decide, rather than having the decision imposed upon them.
The move has horrified Austria’s medical establishment. Dr Manfred Neuberger, professor emeritus at the Medical University of Vienna, says it is “a public health disaster”.
“The decision is irresponsible. It was a victory for the tobacco industry. The new government made Austria into the ashtray of Europe.”
What he calls a “public health disaster” I call a victory for liberty. It matters not which industry is behind it, the simple fact is that individuals will be able to choose for themselves, and choice drives various markets. Businesses will thrive under such conditions as they’ll have to compete or be left behind.
Pretty soon it’ll be clear which groups favour which businesses, which is just how it should be.
Now the Vienna Chamber of Physicians and Austrian Cancer Aid are launching a petition calling on the government to reconsider.
Dr Thomas Szekeres, the head of the Austrian and Vienna Chamber of Physicians, says they “don’t understand why the government wants to step back and allow smoking”.
Missing the point entirely. They don’t want to “allow smoking” they want to grant their people greater freedoms. Nothing is more sacred than the ability to choose. Whether an individual makes a choice you disagree with or not is simply, none of your concern.
Isn’t it about time that governments stood up to the scrotum-faced headbangers in tobacco control and gave back the social freedoms that were wrongly taken from the public they serve?
Vive la liberté!