When Ireland banned smoking in all enclosed public spaces in March 2004 it made big news. Critics said that pubs and restaurants would suffer, but the ban has actually been a huge success. Cigarettes sales in pubs dropped by as much as 60%, thousands of smokers quit in the first year and more non-smokers ventured out to the pub. Since Ireland’s success story most other European countries have adopted anti-smoking laws.
The Netherlands will be among the last countries in Western Europe when it bans smoking in restaurants, bars and nightclubs on July 1st this year. Only six weeks and we’ll finally be able to eat out without being harassed by smoke. With the looming ban I had expected restaurants to excercise the ban earlier than July 1st, but it looks like they’re going to keep those ashtrays on their tables until the evening of June 30th.
I find it lame that the government waits this long to implement the ban. It’s been one year (since June 2007) since the government set this date of July 1st. Why not earlier? It doesn’t really require a year of planning to take the ashtrays off the tables and put up a non-smoking sign, does it? Turkey, meanwhile, decided to introduce a smoking ban last March and this will already go into effect this week!!! From Monday smoking is banned from most enclosed public spaces in Turkey. Wow, that’s what I call progress!
Despite the evident success in countries like Ireland, Dutch bars and restaurants are still trying to fight the ban. I really wonder if the smoking ban will be enforced in the Netherlands. There are already so many other laws here that don’t seem to be enforced. Officially you can’t smoke on train stations today, but people do it anyway. We’ve seen cops and train station personnel pass by smokers on platforms and not say anything.
Last Saturday we had dinner at a new restaurant in Roosendaal and, as is typical in Dutch restaurants, the smoking section was between the exit and non-smoking section, forcing you to walk through a cloud of smoke when you enter or go to the restroom. A lot of restaurants have only a few non-smoking tables and the whole place is filled with smoke anyway, or your non-smoking table is just one meter from a table where smoking is allowed. I can’t wait until July 1st!
More information: Smoking bans by country