Confusion clouds new tobacco law .jpg

Confusion clouds new tobacco law


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WITH THE new smoking law coming into effect on January 1, 2008, some believe that tourism in the Algarve will suffer. Others believe that opposition will be short lived and there will be no long-term effects on tourism.

However, there still remains some confusion as to what restrictions will be in place as well as how compliance will be monitored.

The smoking law, approved on June 28, is not an outright ban in all enclosed public spaces. However, it will be prohibited to smoke in many closed places. From January 1, it will be forbidden to smoke in all government buildings without exception, work places, rented accommodation, reception areas, health and medical facilities, retirement homes, orphanages, all education and sport facilities, museums, libraries, theatres, food and beverage establishments, airports, bus and train stations, covered car parks and ATM vestibules.

However, the law states that smoking areas can be created in any units or facilities that treat people for psychological problems. Prisons will also have the option to create separate accommodation for smokers.

Smoking areas can be designated up to 30 per cent of the total space or up to 40 per cent of the space if the smoking area is completely separate for indoor public places larger than 100sqm.

Any building measuring less than 100sqm must choose the designation and can opt for the establishment to be smoking ‘friendly’. In this case, signs must be posted prior to entry and within, there must be walls or separations and ventilation units. Hotels can allocate smoking floors and rooms, up to 40 per cent of the total space.

Many restrictions

As part of the new law, there will be restrictions on where consumers can purchase cigarettes. They are prohibited from being sold in public buildings, education institutions, retirement homes and all health related facilities. Cigarettes can still be sold in food and beverage establishments.

All health centres, as part of the National Health Service, must provide a programme for people wishing to stop smoking.

It is the responsibility of the owner of a given premises to ensure the law is complied with. The proprietor should alert the authorities to any cases of non compliance. Any smokers caught breaking the law could be fined between 50 and 750 euros. Proprietors of establishments could be fined between 50 and 1,000 euros for not taking responsibility for their customers respecting the law. They could also be fined up to 10,000 euros for failing to create smoking areas or not having the correct signage.

The government announced last week that it planned to send a leaflet to every address in December with an outline of the law and the summary of the restrictions.

“We are expecting resistance to the law and we are preparing ourselves for this resistance”, said Francisco George the director of the national health authority, Direcção-Geral de Saúde.

However, food and safety officers from ASAE were more positive. ASAE President, António Nunes, said: “We are not expecting resistance from consumers or proprietors because the law is balanced”, adding “proprietors will be able to decide whether their establishments are for smokers or not and, in the case of mixed spaces, will have to comply with the conditions”.

From the time that the law comes into effect, ASAE officers will launch an intense campaign with the help of police forces to ensure individuals and companies are in compliance.

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