Sunday

7th Mar 2021

EU parliament does u-turn on smoking ban

  • Lighting up: no longer a problem in the European parliament (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament's new leadership has dropped a complete ban on smoking in the House and decided to re-introduce smoking areas, with critics saying the move sends a negative message just as the EU is boosting an anti-smoking drive.

The ban on smoking inside the EU parliament took force at the beginning of 2007 but after the mid-January reshuffle in the assembly's office - consisting of the president and 14 vice-presidents - the new leaders agreed to set up special smoking areas.

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French Green MEP and vice-president Gerard Onesta was heavily outvoted on keeping the ban. He said the new rules would not only send a "horrible political signal" but could also be more costly, as they will require special air filters in the designated areas, AFP news agency reported.

The move comes just after the European Commission announced it is considering an EU-wide smoking ban in public places, following member states such as Ireland, Italy, Malta and Sweden where similar steps have been taken.

But the six week-long parliament smoking ban was widely flouted in any case, with MEPs lighting up in their private offices and in the corridors outside social gatherings and with many security and catering staff too timid to take the members on.

According to EU statistics, more than 79,000 adults die in the EU each year due to passive smoking which is the main argument used by those calling for legislation banning smoking in all enclosed public areas and workplaces including bars and restaurants.

The European Parliament has hosted a number of events and voted on several reports highlighting the negative consequences of smoking, such as a 2002 resolution on the "prevention of smoking and on initiatives to improve tobacco control."

In the resolution, MEPs argued that everyone has the right to breathe clean air and urged strict controls, including bans on smoking in the workplace and on tobacco vending machines.

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