News of: Monday, April 06 2009,

Smoking ban in pubs in the Netherlands under fire

Two developments have led to important changes in the smoking ban 'landscape' in Holland.

The first case is of a pub in the city of Groningen (in the North of the Netherlands). It found a loophole in the legislation that has been in effect since July 2008.
Under the new law, smoking is not allowed in bars, but bar owners can make a separate smoking area. This area must be closed off from the rest of the bar, so that employees can work in a smoke-free environment.

The pub in Groningen had moved the bar to a storage space, and converted the rest of the pub into a smoking area. To get a drink, visitors now have to go to the former storage space, and order it there. Then they can bring back the drinks to the pub itself. Staff has to remain in what used to be the storage space.
The construction has been confirmed as legal, by the Minister of Health himself.

The second case involves a bar in Breda, in the South of the Netherlands. It is a small bar, run completely by the owner, without employees. The owner was fined for allowing guests to smoke. However, a judge ruled that the fine violates the fundamental right of equal treatment as described in the Dutch Constitution. The smoking ban is unfair for pubs without employees. They normally have no space enough to create a separate smoking area.

The public prosecutor will appeal in this case, so the case is not final. However, it is clear that the smoking ban is not so firm any more as it seemed in the beginning.

Already, many bars throughout the Netherlands have put back the ashtrays in their establishments. This means that in Amsterdam it will no longer be very difficult to find a place to smoke - quite a few bars had never bothered much about the smoking ban anyway.

Recent research by the European Union showed that resistance against a smoking ban is the strongest in the Netherlands: 52% of the population is against it, amongst whom many non-smokers. For example, Italy (3%), Sweden (15%) and Ireland (18%) score much lower.