The new cabinet plans to phase out smoking in cafes and bars by 2011. Despite polls showing that 66% of people support a ban, and calls from Catering unions to institute a speedier ban.
When I arrived here I was surprised at the number of young, educated people who smoke. Smoking has long been out of favour where I come from. I was even shocked at the number of people who would smoke in restaurants. It seemed rude somehow to publically ruin a meal by smoking all the way through it.
In winter I avoid bars, they become airless caves of exhaled smokers fog in the cold evenings. “Passive Smoking” is not a risk but a certainty, but even without considering the long term risk of damage to my lungs my eyes start to water and my sinuses become extremely irritated. It’s uncomfortable for me, and certainly not attractive! I’m not a big bar-hopper at the best of times so I doubt my staying away in winter dramatically affects the profits of the local bars.
However a couple of years ago I went to Dublin, Ireland already had their smoking ban in force and it was an absolute joy to go into a bar, listen to live music for a couple of hours, and risk my health on a pint or two of Guinness. Instead of the non-smokers heading outside for a breath of fresh air it was the smokers racing out the door to light up.
The Netherlands has been really slow on anti-smoking legislation, until the 90’s there were no non-smoking carriages on trains, it was only a couple of years ago that smoking became illegal in the underground stations (not that people seem to take any notice). A 2005 covenant from the catering industry to reduce smoking is making a little headway – according to Iens 213 restaurants/cafes now have a non-smoking area.
Smoking kills, and the evidence on passive smoking is that it also kills. So why the delay? One third of people think there should be no limits on smoking in public places, which neatly corresponds to the proportion of Dutch people smoking. Plus about 40% of the retail price of cigarettes is tax.