Health: It’s taken some years for Luxembourg to get there, but from January 1 smoking in cafés, bars and discotheques will no longer be allowed. However, rules surrounding the ban remain unclear.
When Luxembourg introduced its first smoking ban in 2006, four out of five residents were in favour of it being extended to restaurants and cafés, according to a TNS Ilres survey. That never happened.
While smoking was no longer allowed in many public places, cafés, bars and discotheques were still authorised to welcome smokers (except for a few hours at meal times, if they served food) and restaurants could, in some circumstances, set up a special smoking area.
That era has now come to an end. After eight years of discussions and delays, the new anti-smoking law was finally adopted this summer, with 56 MPs voting for and only four against--one of those being former minister of healthCarlo Wagner.
“It was about time Luxembourg got on board,” says Isobel, 25 years old. “Whenever I have friends visiting from other countries, it’s an embarrassment. They look at me in disbelief every time we walk into a bar. It’s really hard to stand all that smoke in confined areas and they’re not used to it.”
Isobel’s mother, Maria, is less vehement: “I think there should be room for everyone. There are enough smoke-free cafés in Luxembourg to choose from, why not keep things as they were? People should be given a choice, not an ultimatum. There should be places where smokers can go and relax with friends too.”
According to Luxembourg’s hotel, restaurant and café sector federation Horesca, the new smoking ban will result in a 12 to 20% drop in revenue, and lead to approximately 250 of the country’s cafés shutting down.
“That is what has happened in other European countries,” says Horesca’s general secretary, François Koepp, who also regrets the lack of official information about practical issues.
“At the moment, we can’t give our members the advice they need. The law has been voted but the regulations have not been released yet. We don’t even know if people will be allowed to smoke electronic cigarettes inside or what the rules for installing a smoking booth or a roofed terrace are. It’s ridiculous.”
“Like many of my friends I started using e-cigarettes because of the upcoming ban,” says Richard. “And now I’m maybe not even allowed to use them in a café? I just don’t understand.”
The hip Urban bar in the city centre is one of the former “smoky” places where customers will have to refrain from lighting up in the new year.
“Of course we expect people to complain a bit, but I can’t imagine that there will be a long term reaction,” says owner Ray Hickey. “It’s a logical law that has been hanging for a long time now and which will bring us in line with the rest of Europe. Luxembourg has been smart in planning it, by introducing it in measured manner instead of imposing a blanket rule right away like in my native Ireland.”
Hickey adds: “Our customers have had the time to adapt. It’s our intention to create a booth or terraced area for the smokers within the guidelines of the law--when we get the details and necessary clarifications. There’s a law and we’ll follow it. I think it will go OK. There are, after all, better reasons for revolution than not being able to smoke in bars.”
UPDATE: Since this article was originally reported, technical specifications on setting up smoking rooms have been published and are available online in English via the government’s administrative portal.