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Brussels, 30 June 2009

Commission calls for Smoke Free Europe by 2012

The European Commission adopted today, after extensive consultation, a proposal for a Council Recommendation calling on all Member States to bring in laws to protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke by 2012. Tobacco remains the largest single cause of premature death and disease in the European Union. According to conservative estimates, 79,000 adults, including 19,000 non-smokers, died in the EU-25 in 2002 due to exposure to tobacco smoke at home (72,000) and in their workplace (7,300).

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "It is my firm belief that each and every European merits full protection from tobacco smoke. There is a wave of support from the general public and we will work with Member States to make this a reality. “

Currently, ten EU countries have comprehensive smoke-free laws in place. UK and Ireland have the strictest smoke-free provisions with a complete ban on smoking in enclosed public places, on public transport and in workplaces. Bulgaria is due to follow suit in 2010. A recent Eurobarometer poll suggests that popularity is mounting for smoke-free policies with 84% of Europeans supporting smoke-free offices and other indoor workplaces; 77% in favour of smoke-free restaurants, and 61% supporting smoke-free bars and pubs.

The Smoke Free Recommendation

The Recommendation calls on Member States to act in three main fronts:

  • Adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport as cited in Article 8 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco control, within three years of the adoption of the Recommendation

  • Enhance smoke-free laws with supporting measures such as protecting children, encouraging efforts to give up tobacco use and pictorial warnings on tobacco packages.

  • Strengthen cooperation at EU level by setting up a network of national focal points for tobacco control.

How many countries already have smoke free policies?

All Member States have some form of regulation aimed to limit exposure to second-hand smoke and its harmful effects on health. The scope and character of these regulations vary. So far, ten EU Member States provide for comprehensive protection from exposure to tobacco smoke. Total bans on smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants, are in place in Ireland and in the UK. A similar ban is due to come into force in Bulgaria in June 2010. Italy, Malta, Sweden, Latvia, Finland, Slovenia, France and the Netherlands have introduced smoke-free legislation allowing for special enclosed smoking rooms. However, in the remaining Member States, citizens and workers are still not fully protected from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces and public places.

Background on EU smoke-free policy

In the early nineties, a number of EU health and safety at work Directives defined certain restrictions on smoking at work. A Council Resolution (1989) and the Recommendation on smoking prevention (2002) called on Member States to provide protection from exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in indoor workplaces, enclosed public places and public transport. In addition to legislative measures, anti-tobacco media campaigns: "Feel free to say no" and "HELP: For a life without tobacco" highlighted, among other things, the hazards of passive smoking.

In 2007, the Commission launched a public debate on the best way to promote smoke-free environments in the EU through its Green Paper "Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level".

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) - the first ever treaty on public health - has been signed by all members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and so far ratified by 164 Parties, including the Community and 26 of its Member States. The EC leads the negotiations on the FCTC protocol on illicit tobacco trade and has been playing an active role in implementation process of the Convention.

In July 2007, the Second Conference of the Parties to the Convention adopted comprehensive guidelines on the protection from exposure to second-hand smoke that set a "gold standard" for Parties to follow. The Community contributed to the development of the guidelines.

For more information:

The Proposal for a Council Recommendation on Smoke free environments

An overview of Commission's actions on tobacco control:

The Flash Eurobarometer on Tobacco (Flash N° 253):

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control


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