While anti-smoking policies have won over many countries who have forbidden smoking in public spaces, Austria seems to be part of a resistance movement. Despite encouragements to align with this policy stance, the country is one of the last to allow smoking in bars and restaurants.
The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), led by Heinz-Christian Strache, a long-time smoker, remained firm in their decision to maintain the legal status. In fact, keeping this measure was demanded by the future right-wing and far-right coalition. A law to totally ban smoking in restaurants was proposed in 2015. The law is expected to come into force on May 1st 2018.
As soon as it was announced, this law to ban smoking in all public spaces, including bars and restaurants, was welcomed by the Austrian population. It had the backing of the Minister of Health at the time, Sabine Oberhauser. And yet, their relief was short-lived, given the amount of negative feedback received.
New developments in the fight to ban smoking in public spaces in Austria.
Bar and restaurant owners estimated that their investments to create smoking and non-smoking sections were sufficient. With the support of Strache, their have only entrenched their position. Their objective is to maintain the right to let customers smoke as they please.
Prevention and awareness campaigns in the fight against smoking are growing in scope and reach internationally. Pamela Rendi Wagner, former Health Minister, regrets this “huge step backwards”. In Austria, the right to smoke is defended with particular vigour. The right could be maintained in any establishment with a smoking area, or with a surface smaller than 50 m².
The only anti-tobacco stance in the proposed law is to ban minors from sitting in smoking areas. In the same manner, the sale of tobacco to persons under 18 years of age would be forbidden; it is currently limited to age 16.