Cyprus - some MPs claim smoking ban to severe..

Frederick University and the European University have been running information kiosks in Nicosia for students over the past two weeks highlighting the hazards of smoking

October 18, 2010 - Cyprus - starting January 1, 2010 blanket ban on smoking in all public spaces.. Cyprus - after the 1st month it seemed like the smoking ban was working...

Now a number of Members of Parliament (MPs) have co-signed a law proposal to amend the current smoking ban, which hopes to offer venues the right to have separate smoking areas. The law proposal, which was submitted to the House Health Committee, and is still to be discussed.

According to DISY (Democratic Rally party)) MP Andreas Themistocleous, who prepared the proposal, the current ban is not being adhered to, with members of the public smoking freely in entertainment venues – especially bars and nightclubs - in direct violation of the law, which came into effect in January this year. The deputy felt it should be up to the public to decide whether they want to smoke or not – as long as they are not affecting anyone else.

“When the law was being passed, the margins were left for amendments,” he explained yesterday. “MPs promised to those who were reacting that the law would be implemented, a few months would pass and any weaknesses spotted would lead to amendments.”

He said the DISY, EDEK (Movement for Social Democracy party) and DIKO ( Democratic Party) MPs’ proposal offered venue owners the right to offer up to 50 per cent of the area to smokers – provided that the venue has an area of 70 square metres or more and the designated smoking area is completely separate and cut off.

“Our proposal for the smoking law is complete with justifications, it is balanced and it affects in no way whatsoever the rights of non smokers,” Themistocleous explained. “One thing is for sure: if the law remains as it is, it isn’t being implemented. So what is the use of this law? It needs to be amended. What we achieved here is a money-making machine for the government.”

The MP reasoned that it was illogical to allow the legal importation and sale of tobacco products, and then ban people from smoking them. “Parliament can’t prevent members of the public from creating a club, where they could use this product,” he pointed out.

Ireland, Norway, Italy and Britain are among the states that implemented full smoking bans successfully. However, Themistocleous suggested Cyprus follows the example of states such as Belgium and Bulgaria, where the smoking laws are not so severe.

“The seven MPs who co-signed the proposal feel the need for amendments,” he said. “Amendments that don’t affect non-smokers and don’t put their health or dignity at risk,” he added.

A prime example of how the current law has failed, said Themistocleous, was that there had been an increase in sales of tobacco products in the first four months of 2010, compared to the year before. “The state’s income from taxes on tobacco products – without these being increased or altered in any way – reached €59 million in the first half of 2010, compared to €54 million in 2009,” he pointed out. “This means we have achieved the exact opposite from what we hoped to achieve with this law.”

The relevant law today is not being implemented, said Themistocleous. “A quick stroll around the island’s nightclubs will show you that from 11 pm onwards, youths are smoking freely.”

The DISY MP maintained there should be a place in society for non smokers as well as smokers. “I won’t go into the ethics of whether someone should smoke or not; obviously we shouldn’t smoke,” said the keen smoker.

“But if someone is to quit something, this is something that can’t be enforced with orders or laws. It is the personal life of each person and in a complete democracy, anyone can affect their health as much as they like. Anyway, there may be many other things that could be a lot more harmful than smoking.”

Themistocleous admitted there were many laws that were passed in parliament but had never been implemented, “due to their extremity or hollowness”.

Reference: Smoking ban ‘too severe’, say MPs by Jacqueline Agathocleous, Cyprus Mail, 10/16/2010.