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Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (Proposal)

Tobacco causes 650,000 deaths in the European Union each year. It is the single largest cause of death, disease and disability. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is just as dangerous in that it contains over 4000 gaseous and particulate compounds, including 69 carcinogens and toxic agents. Having regard to the diseases caused by ETS, such as asthma or chronic pulmonary disease, the European Commission considers joint action by the Member States necessary in order to reduce exposure to tobacco, which is detrimental to society.


Proposal for a Council Recommendation of 30 June 2009 on smoke-free environments [COM(2009) 328 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


This Proposal sets out the measures to be taken with a view to implementing Article 8 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (pdf ). Ratified by 26 EU Member States, the Article requires signatories to provide effective protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in:

  • indoor workplaces;
  • indoor public places;
  • public transport.

Targeting priority groups

Children and adolescents should be protected as a priority. To this end, Member States should establish or reinforce strategies to reduce the exposure of this high-risk group to second-hand tobacco smoke.

Complementing smoke-free policies

Smoke-free policies should be complemented by supporting measures such as measures relating to cessation of tobacco use or treatment for tobacco dependence.

Other supporting measures may be introduced in the area of information, such as the use on tobacco packages of photographs and warnings about associated health risks. Other information may also appear, such as the contact details of services supporting the cessation of tobacco use.

Developing a targeted strategy

Existing tobacco control strategies, programmes and plans should be reviewed and monitored regularly in order to protect the population from tobacco smoke in public and private settings. These strategies, programmes or plans should be supported by implementing tools.

National focal points should be established within six months after the adoption of the Recommendation, to promote the exchange of information and best practices between Member States.

Member States are strongly encouraged to work together to establish joint definitions, criteria and applications in order to pursue a coherent strategy throughout the Community.


In 2007 the European Commission initiated consultation within the framework of the Green Paper “Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke“. That consultation revealed that the majority of Member States favoured comprehensive smoke-free policies in all enclosed workplaces and public places. This position is explained in part by the figures on the effects of ETS on health. In 2008, 6000 people died in the EU following exposure to ETS, including 2500 non-smokers. Exposure to ETS also generates high economic costs which could be avoided.


ProposalOfficial JournalProcedure

COM(2009) 328 final



Last updated: 22.10.2009
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