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EP calls for EU-wide ban on smoking in the workplace

Public health - 24-10-2007 - 15:15
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A man smokes a cigarette in a designated open smoking area ©BELGA/EPA/Barbara Walton

EP calls for EU-wide ban on smoking in the workplace

In its first response to a Commission consultation document, the European Parliament -- in an own-initiative report adopted today -- called for wide-ranging measures to restrict smoking in public places and make it harder for underage people to buy cigarettes. The report was adopted with 561 votes in favour 63 against and 36 abstentions.

In a report drafted by Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP-ED, DE) the EP points out that 650,000 people a year die from smoking, including 80,000 from passive smoking, with children and unborn babies being particularly vulnerable. While 70% of Europeans are non-smokers, 86% are in favour of a ban on smoking at work, 84% in other public places, 61% in bars and pubs and 77% in restaurants.
 
MEPs therefore welcome the Commission's Green Paper "Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level" but regard it only as a starting point. They urge the Commission to designate environmental tobacco smoke a class 1 carcinogen and recommend that - within two years - Member States impose smoking bans in all enclosed workplaces, including catering establishments, as well as in all enclosed public buildings and transport. If these objectives are not attained, the Commission is urged to submit a proposal for rules on the protection of non-smokers in the field of employment protection by 2011. The Commission is also asked to produce a report on the cost incurred to national health systems and the EU economy as a result of smoking and tobacco smoke.
 
The EP believes Directive 2001/37/EC on tobacco products should be updated to toughen up the rules on tobacco additives, including those which are carcinogenic or addiction-enhancing. The report insists that the same directive include "a renewed library of larger, hard-hitting picture warnings", to be made mandatory "on all tobacco products sold in the European Union". MEPs also call on the Commission to urgently "investigate the health risks associated with consumption of snus and its impact on the consumption of cigarettes".
 
Finally, MEPs ask 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 (e.g. over the internet). In the same breath, the report calls on Member States to commit themselves "to reduce 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".
 
Directing their attention to their own workplace, MEPs call for the Parliament -- "in the light of its duty to set an example" -- to adopt a smoking ban "with no exemptions" in all areas of the House. 
 
The report also condemns the disregard shown by some Members and staff of the European Parliament for the restrictions on smoking in the European Parliament, e.g. by smoking in staircases or in the open Members' bar in Strasbourg.
 
Smoking in playgrounds
 
Finally, the House calls on the Member States to prohibit smoking on public playgrounds within two years.
 
REF.: 20071023IPR12111