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Smoking banned at public places

Hungarian lawmakers approved a proposal to ban smoking at public places. Doctors called the decision an important and vital first step, while tobacco growers and the catering business pointed to the negative implications of the rigorous law.

Hungarian Parliament amended the law on the protection of non-smokers, banning lighting up in public institutions, including public transport vehicles, stations, underground pedestrian passages and playgrounds. The law comes into effect on 1 January 2012.
Doctors called the decision on stricter smoking regulations a milestone, while the Hungarian Tobacco Growers’ Association is worried about the livelihood of 25,000 tobacco growing families. Catering businesses said that while they accept the lawmakers’ decision, they consider the amendment too rigorous and urge the toning down of it.
In working places, restaurants and bars smoking will be allowed only in the open air or in a five metre radius around the entrance. Fines on violators will not be imposed until April. Smoking will be allowed in outdoor entertainment facilities, except in public education, child welfare and child protection institutions and healthcare service providers.
Medical associations and a civilian organisation working together to reduce smoking say the law amendment enables Hungary to finally start catching up to Europe in this area. Their statement also says that thanks to the more rigorous smoking regulations passive smoking could also decrease and occasional smokers who are not addicted yet would rather choose healthy life instead of smoking.
About 15-16 million cigarettes are smoked in Hungary annually. According to official statistics, some 8-10% of the packs are bought on the black market, but the actual percentage could be the double of this.
A publication by the World Health Organisation says smoking bans do not lead to smaller revenues for catering companies, while they do generate considerable savings for the budget. The WHO put the spotlight on 48 countries who tightened smoking rules and the only country where the ban reduced turnover in catering was Ireland.

Sándor Laczkó

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