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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
EU public smoking ban considered
Smoky bar
Drinkers would not be able to enjoy a cigarette with their pint
Smoking in bars, cafes and restaurants should be banned, the EU's health commissioner has said.

David Byrne said he backed a ban because of the health risks of passive smoking.

England's Chief Medical Officer and UK doctors have already called for a ban on public smoking.

But any EU directive would have to be implemented by individual countries - and the UK government has said it has no plans to introduce a ban.

The UK is dragging its heels
Amanda Sandford, ASH
Ireland already has plans to ban smoking in the workplace and in bars and restaurants.

Mr Byrne said officials were developing a policy which he hoped would lead to the drafting of legislation.

Legal action against bar or restaurant bosses over smoking was "simply a matter of time", he warned.

He told the website: "There is clear evidence now that there is a correlation between passive smoking and health-related responses like disease.

"If that is the case, then the adoption of measures to prevent the exposure of the public to tobacco and the effects of tobacco is desirable.

"Therefore the logic of that is, the less smoking there is in public, in public places, the better. So I would support measures that move in that direction."

These businesses should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to ban smoking in their establishments or not
Stephan, Belgium

'Growing trend'

He said he did could not estimate when any legislation would be introduced.

Mr Byrne said he knew such a ban could face opposition in some European countries,

He added: "I know that traditions and cultures differ.

"One must always be sensitive respecting different cultural traditions and I always seek to try and do that when I'm contemplating policies and bringing forward objectives.

"But when you are dealing with something fundamental like health, you have to try and see to what extent you can change opinion."

Amanda Sandford of the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health told BBC News Online: "This is really part of a growing trend which we're seeing worldwide, a move towards smoke-free workplaces and public places.

"It's early days in terms of the EU process, in that they are just starting to look at proposals on how to introduce a ban, but that in itself is encouraging."

She added: "The science is very clear. We know without a shadow of a doubt that passive smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease in adults, and a whole range of other diseases in children."

Ms Sandford said: "The UK is dragging its heels a bit on this, but I hope that if they are getting this message from the EU - that it's something that needs to be considered - that can only be a good thing."

The pro-smoking campaign group FOREST has said it supports restrictions on smoking in public, such as a choice of smoking and no-smoking areas in pubs, restaurants and workplaces.

But it says there is no justification for a total ban.

No plans

Sir Liam Donaldson, England's Chief Medical Officer said a smoking ban should apply to all workplaces and enclosed spaces, including bars and restaurants.

His comments came shortly after the British Medical Association also called for a ban.

However, the Department of Health has said ministers have no plans to introduce such a ban.

Doctors urge public smoking ban
01 Jul 03  |  Health
Smoking ban passes first test
14 Apr 03  |  Politics

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