American-style bans on smoking in bars and restaurants could be on their way to Europe. Officials in Brussels said yesterday they might legislate to outlaw cigarettes in public places. The European Commission said it was discussing far-reaching proposals as part of its offensive against the tobacco industry.
Several EU countries already plan to outlaw smoking in restaurants, bars and cafés, forcing smokers outdoors on to patios and terraces. Ireland and the Netherlands want to introduce bans from January.
David Byrne, commissioner for health and consumer protection, told the Eupolitix.com website that discussions had started on a possible Europe-wide measure. "The less smoking there is in public, in public places, the better," he said. His officials were working to see how they could "bring forward policy" on the problem.
Mr Byrne said he and Anna Diamantopoulou, the social affairs commissioner, "are working together on this and I would hope that will lead to the drafting of legislation". The Commission could propose such a measure because it has powers over health and safety at work, and bar and restaurant workers are potentially at risk from passive smoking.
A majority of member states would have to approve any such EU-wide proposal. Lobbying is expected to be fierce.
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