'No delays' for summer smoking ban
Austria’s Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner (ÖVP) has said that the new smoking ban for all restaurants and bars will be implemented by the summer - despite protests and petitions from bar and restaurant owners who feel their businesses will suffer.
A recent study published in The Lancet showed that Austria still has some of the worst smoking statistics in Europe. The country has even been described as “the ashtray of Europe”.
Mitterlehner told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper that a draft law for the ban “should be ready by Easter”, with a transitional period of one year to allow businesses to adjust.
The conversion of bars, cafes and restaurants which are currently set up with smoking and non-smoking sections is expected to cost around €100 million, according to the Chamber of Commerce. Business owners are currently negotiating for some form of compensation for the expense.
In a recent interview Nadia Steiber, from the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, told FM4 radio that Austria’s high smoking rate is due to a lack of anti-smoking policies.
Cigarettes are comparatively cheap in Austria (a pack of one of the most popular brands costs around €4.40), the tax on tobacco is relatively low, and 16-year-olds can legally buy cigarettes.
Austria ranks at the bottom among the 34 European countries considered in the 2013 Tobacco Control Scale, an indicator developed to quantify the implementation of tobacco control policies at country level.
The latest Eurobarometer survey on tobacco showed that Austria has extremely high smoking rates among young adults (aged 18–28 years), with 52 percent of men in that age group smoking, and 34 percent of women.
Smoking is particularly high among young unemployed people, with as many as 67 percent of unemployed men between the age of 18 and 28 smoking, and 55 percent of women.