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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 13:36 GMT
Dutch clamp down on public smoking
Smoky bar
The Netherlands has one of Europe's highest smoking rates
Dutch smokers have begun the New Year with severe restrictions placed on where and when they can light up.

Laws which came into effect at midnight ban smoking in many public places including railway stations, trains, toilets and offices.

At work, staff will only be able to smoke in special rooms fitted with extractor fans.

Employers are under no obligation to provide a room. They risk being fined if they allow staff to go on smoking.

Stations, including partially-covered train and bus platforms
Places of work, including stairs and hallways
Hotels, bars and restaurant have won a temporary reprieve, but only on condition that they find a compromise by 2005.

Around one third of the Dutch population of 16 million currently smoke - higher than all other European Union countries except Spain, Greece and Germany.

The government is aiming to cut the total by 5% over the next three years.

In the run-up to the New Year regulations, more than 850,000 Dutch smokers pledged online to quit in 2004.

They registered on a website run by the Dutch Foundation for Public Health and Smoking, Stivoro.

"Most people who register on the site say they want to quit for health reasons," said director Trudy Prins.

Smokers are not really prepared any more to stand up for their habit. In the back of our minds we know we will have to stop sooner or later
Smoker Joost van Egmond
"But I think that for many people the fact that they will no longer be able to smoke in the workplace as of New Year's Day has helped give them that extra push."

Many Dutch smokers are unhappy about the ban but have bowed to the inevitable, says 28-year-old heavy smoker Joost van Egmond.

"Smokers are not really prepared any more to stand up for their habit. In the back of our minds we know we will have to stop sooner or later," he said.

"I think the government strategy is successful and in the medium term a lot of people will give up smoking."

Plans for an even stricter ban in Ireland, which were also due to take effect at midnight, have been postponed.

In New York, critics claim a strict ban has hit takings in bars.

Irish pubs revolt over smoking
03 Oct 03  |  Europe
Scotland seeks public smoking ban
28 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Norway gets tough on smoking
24 Oct 03  |  Health
EU public smoking ban considered
19 Sep 03  |  Health

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