POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Petition success shows anti-smoking fervour



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A petition calling to end smoking on the terraces of bars and restaurants in Luxembourg received enough signatures to force a parliamentary debate Photo: Panos Sakalakis/Unsplash 

A campaigner says he hopes to see a change in mentalities when it comes to smoking on café terraces after his petition attracted enough signatures for a parliamentary debate.

Daniel Reding’s petition benefited from a last-minute surge in interest this week, when hundreds of people signed in the last 24 hours. This last push brought the number of signatories up to 4,551 by the time the petition closed at the end of 4 September, just over the 4,500 threshold required to force a parliamentary debate.

Reding said he was not holding his breath for a full ban in the near future, but it was a step in the right direction in a country where things move forward in a step-by-step manner.

“It is about making people finally learn to consider tobacco no longer as anything "normal", it is about helping non-smokers dare to say openly they don't like to get the smell and the health problems from others, it is about living a real tolerance with priority on health issues and not simply a kind of one-way tolerance, it is about making everyone understand that health has a priority over pleasure,” he told Delano on Wednesday.

2014 smoking ban

Luxembourg was among the last western European countries to ban smoking in public bars and cafés when a new law came into force on 1 January 2014. The ban was extended on 1 August 2017 to children’s playgrounds, and vehicles in which a child under 12 is travelling. The extension also saw that e-cigarettes be treated in the same way as traditional tobacco products.

Over the past ten years, the proportion of smokers in Luxembourg fell from one in four to one in five according to data from the 2017 Luxembourg Cancer Foundation survey. And the 2018 survey showed that while smokers were not quitting, they were cutting back. The foundation advocates increasing VAT on tobacco products to further bring smoking numbers down.

But these measures do nothing to help people inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke, known as passive smoking, in public places outdoors.

“Knowing that in Luxembourg there are around 90 deaths per year due to passive smoking, this is not unimportant, meaning people around smokers have a high risk of smoking-related disorders,” Reding said.

The petitioner said he started the petition with the health of vulnerable people in mind, for example children, people with lung problems and pregnant women. But, he added that the smell of cigarette smoke can also be offputting while trying to eat.

No date had been set for the parliamentary debate but if it is after the 14 October elections, it will be for the new government to decide.

“We will have to see, but for me it is clear that if we want Luxembourg to apply finally modern health politics, the ban must come in a more or less close future,” Reding said.

Smoking bans by country

If Luxembourg was a late joiner in the smoking ban game, Bhutan was the trail-blazer as the first nation to ban the sale of tobacco in 2004 and smoking in public places the following year. Since then, scores of countries have followed suit.

In France smoking has been prohibited in indoor public places such as stations, museums and restaurants since 2007, smoking in bars, cafés and restaurants in Belgium (regardless of whether food was being served) was banned in 2011. In Germany, states have their own smoking laws but in 2016 40% of the population lived in a state with a strict ban on smoking in restaurants, cafés and discos.