Austria to expand smoking ban and regulate other nicotine devices

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 15 Dec, 2022 Updated Thu 15 Dec 2022 12:20 CEST
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Pictured is a person smoking inside a car. (Photo by Ed Jones / AFP)

The Austrian government wants to expand the smoking ban to 'other outdoor public places'. Here's what we know so far.

The smoking ban in Austrian restaurants, which has been in force since November 1st, 2019, will be extended to "additional outdoor public places" in 2023, according to plans by Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens).

A new amendment to the Tobacco and Non-Smoker Protection Act is being worked on, according to the newspaper Der Standard. Among other things, it provides for an Austria-wide extension of the smoking ban to "additional outdoor public places" such as "children's playgrounds and recreational areas for children and young people".

There are also plans to regulate so-called nicotine pouches - small packets pushed under the upper lip that deliver nicotine and flavours (but not tobacco). They have become increasingly popular, especially among younger people.

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Further preventive measures, such as a ban on smoking in public buildings and other public places, should be widely discussed in society in order to gain the necessary acceptance, broadcaster ORF reported, citing the Health Ministry. 

However, a general ban on the sale of cigarettes in Austria from a specific year of birth - such as the one announced in New Zealand - was not currently under discussion.

Smoking in Austria

Austria is a nation of many smokers. Every fifth person over the age of 15 in this country reaches for a cigarette every day, according to 2019 figures from Statistics Austria. Almost six percent of Austrians also smoke occasionally. 

The 2019 ban on smoking in indoor areas, including bars and restaurants, was highly controversial in Austria, with people claiming it would hurt the coffee culture in the country and cause pubs and restaurants to shut down - not unlike the arguments seen in other countries such as the UK more than 10 years before.

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The far-right party FPÖ - formerly led by a keen smoker - was one of the most vocal against the ban, even blocking it when they became junior coalition partners with the centre-right ÖVP in December 2017.

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

The amendment will be reviewed at the beginning of 2023.

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