Austria undecided

| February 20, 2018

Following a public outcry, the scrapping of a ban on tobacco smoking in Austria’s bars and restaurants will have to be debated in parliament, according to a story.

Austria is one of a few Western countries that allow smoking in bars and restaurants, but that liberal attitude was due to be snuffed out in May with the enactment of a ban imposed by the previous coalition government.

The ban was scrapped by the new government at the behest of the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, Austria’s vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, himself a smoker, who said it impinged on “freedom of choice”.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a non-smoker, had supported the ban when his center-right People’s Party was a member in the previous ruling coalition. But he was forced to change stance, bowing to pressure from his junior coalition partner, which insisted that the ban be dropped as a precondition for being part of the government.

The Austrian Medical Association (ÖÄK) launched a petition on Thursday to thwart the government’s plan, and the petition proved so popular that registration of signatures on the Interior Ministry website had to be stopped for two hours on Friday due to the heavy load placed on the ministry’s online servers.

The story said that more than 100,000 people had signed the petition, a number high enough to mean that the matter would have to be debated in parliament.

“This is a big vote and it has to make politicians rethink the issue,” said the ÖÄK’s president, Thomas Szekeres. “We will keep collecting signatures and expressions of support so as to keep increasing the pressure.”

In theory, large restaurants in Austria are required to provide separate smoking and non-smoking areas, but the rules are not rigidly implemented. Smaller restaurants need not have a separate area if the owner agrees to allow smoking on the premises.


Category: Breaking News, People, Regulation

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