Health Minister admits giving option on smoking ban.jpg

Health Minister admits giving option on smoking ban

THE PORTUGUESE Health Ministry has admitted altering its plans with regard to a blanket smoking ban in food and drink establishments throughout Portugal.

Now, it will give restaurant, bar and disco owners the option of whether or not to allow smoking in their establishments. This option will be given at least for an experimental period, to facilitate the adoption of new government rules, which had initially stated that smoking would be banned, or at least strictly controlled, in smoking zones.

The alterations were made by Health Minister Correia de Campos and will be debated by the Portuguese government cabinet in the coming weeks. A Health Ministry spokesman said last week: “We are not ruling out changes to the proposed law.”

This change in heart, in what had initially been proposed, apparently follows the opinion of the vast majority of the Portuguese. According to several surveys carried out this year by various entities, including national newspapers and the Health Ministry, the blanket ban on smoking in restaurants was the most contentious part of the new legislation, which restricted tobacco smoking in public places.

The vast majority of those questioned (70.7 per cent) believed that the decision to prohibit or control the use of tobacco products in bars, discos, cafés and restaurants should be down to the owner of the establishment. Most said that it was preferable to set aside smoking and non-smoking areas, but not ban the habit outright.

Only 22.5 per cent of those questioned thought that smoking should be banned outright in public leisure places where food and drink were served. The option on the part of the individual proprietors was also heavily supported and lobbied by the Portuguese hotel and tourist sector, which pressurised the government even as the law was being discussed. The idea being that Latin countries have a smoking culture and that blanket bans such as those seen in Britain, Ireland and Sweden simply would not work in Portugal.

However, in the various surveys, 94.5 per cent agreed smoking should be banned in hospitals, 67.8 per cent in educational establishments, 66.2 per cent in the office and workplace, 65.3 per cent in public transports, 50.3 in shopping malls (except cafés, bars and restaurants) and 47.7 in airports. Only 40.9 per cent thought smoking should be restricted in hotels, 25.4 per cent in bars and pubs, while a higher 52.5 per cent thought so in restaurants.