January 3, 2009 - On January 1, 2009 an anti-smoking law in Austria goes into effect placing more restrictions on smoking in bars and restaurants. In line with the new law, restaurants and bars larger than 861 square feet have to create separate smoking sections. According to Agence France-Presse, if owners fail to comply with the new law, they will have to face a fine of up to E10,000.
Austria has one of the highest smoking rates on the continent, but is one of the last European nations to implement such smoking legislation, and its restrictions contain many loopholes. One out of two teens and adults smokes in Austria, one of the highest smoking rates in Europe. In 2007, 14,000 people died from smoking-related diseases out of an overall population of 8.2 million. Smoking is common among women and teenagers as well as men. Austrian girls light up, on average, before their 12th birthdays, the youngest age in Europe, according to the World Health Organization.
In the case of those bars and restaurants that are smaller than 538 square feet, owners can decide whether or not they want to allow smoking. The authorities will determine if the creation of a separate room is feasible for those bars and restaurants between 538 and 861 square feet. Furthermore, smoking is still permitted in college dorms, and tobacco companies can still dispense cigarettes for free.
In addition, minors and pregnant women have been banned from working in spaces where they are exposed to smoke.
References: Europe's Smoking Culture Lingers, Despite Bans by CHRISTINA PASSARIELLO, Almut Schoenfeld and David Crawford in Berlin and Thomas Catan in Madrid contributed to this article, The Wall Street Journal, 1/2/2009; Austria approves new anti-smoking law,Datamonitor, 7/10/2008; Partial smoking ban in Austria: same difference, say critics, Agence France-Presse**