07 April 2004

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Partial smoking ban paves the way for tougher laws

The partial smoking ban introduced Monday has generated “a surprisingly positive feedback” according to Director of Health Promotion Mario Spiteri.
Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday, Dr Spiteri said he was surprised by the feedback he got from bar and restaurant owners who were asking him whether they could ban smoking from last Monday, instead of waiting up to a year until the full regulations come into force.
“The Maltese are becoming increasingly assertive against smoking, and establishment owners are realising it makes sense to ban smoking in their premises,” Dr Spiteri said.
So far, smoking is prohibited in enclosed public places but not in restaurants and bars. Such establishments measuring over 60 square metres have up to six months to designate specific smoking areas while smaller establishments have up to a year to install air purification equipment according to criteria that have yet to be established by the Malta Standards Authority (MSA).
Meanwhile, the toughest smoking ban in Europe went into effect across Ireland, as the government predicted it would save lives by getting people to kick the cigarette habit.
Hardest hit by the ban will be Ireland's 10,000 pubs, which remain very much a part of social life. Offenders risk fines of up to 3,000 euros, and pubs that tolerate smoking could lose their licence.
Representatives of more than 10,000 pub owners in Ireland have claimed the ban will cost them business in a country where about 30 per cent of adults smoke. So far, however, pubs have reported few problems in enforcement.
Also, a far-reaching ban on smoking in public is to be introduced in Norway in June, and a similar one in Scotland by the end of the year in a bid to slash the country’s appalling death rate from tobacco-related disease.
Supporters of a ban are also pointing to what they claim is the success of the New York smoking ban, swept into law last year.
A report last week claimed that takings in bars and restaurants had risen by nine per cent after the ban, as non-smokers decided to head out.
More than 500,000 people die every year in the European Union as a direct or indirect consequence of smoking, making nicotine addiction the biggest avoidable cause of disease and premature death, the European Commission says.
In further research into the dangers of passive smoking, pubic health experts in New Zealand discovered that people who have never smoked but who live with a smoker have a 15 percent higher risk of death than someone who resides in a smoke-free environment.
"The results from this study add to the weight of evidence of harm caused by passive smoking and support steps to reduce exposure to other people's smoke -- in the home and in other settings," Tony Blakely of Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in New Zealand, said in the study.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | E-mail