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What you need to know about Austria's new indoor smoking ban

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
What you need to know about Austria's new indoor smoking ban
Put that cigarette away. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Austria on Friday became one of the last European countries to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, after years of debate.

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Parliamentarians approved the ban in July in a bid to rid Austria of its status as the "ashtray of Europe". Only members from the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) opposed the measure.

A quarter of the country’s 8.8 million inhabitants smoke, exceeding the European average of 18 percent, but calls for bans dated back more than a decade.

The FPÖ – formerly led by a keen smoker – had stymied a previous attempt to ban smoking in pubs and restaurants when it entered the government in December 2017.

That prompted a backlash from large sections of the public and the Austrian medical association, which organized a petition in favour of the ban signed by almost 900,000 people, or around 14 percent of voters.

However, in May the FPÖ left government under the shadow of a corruption scandal, paving the way for the proposal to be voted again in parliament.

Up until now, smoking has been legal in bars and restaurants larger than 50 square metres as long as it was done in a separate area – although this rule was not always rigidly implemented.

No separate area was necessary in smaller establishments if the owner was happy to allow smoking on the premises.

However, a growing number of restaurants and cafes had already banned smoking of their own accord.

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