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Europe

Commission Eyes Smoking Ban in All EU Bars, Restaurants

The European Commission wants to ban smoking in bars and restaurants across the European Union, officials in Brussels said Monday, Oct. 27.

A little toy in the form of a cigarette smoking skeleton is seen outside of a shop

The Commission looks to spread the ban in a bid to put an end to smoking risks

However, discussions on a smoking ban in all of the member states' workplaces are still at the preliminary stage, meaning any new rules are unlikely to be implemented before 2010.

"Clearly one of the areas which we would like to see covered (by the ban) is bars, restaurants and pubs, which are enclosed spaces where workers on a daily basis are exposed to passive smoking and to the consequences that passive smoking has on their own health and safety," said Chantal Hughes, spokeswoman of EU employment commissioner Vladimir Spidla.

Smoking bans currently differ widely across the EU. While Ireland was the first EU country to make its pubs and restaurants smoke-free, puffing cigarettes is still allowed in some pubs in Germany and Belgium. And smoking is still common in both bars and restaurants in central and Eastern European countries like Hungary and Romania.

"A number of member states have already introduced smoking bans. However, they are very different in terms of scope and nature," Hughes said.

"We have a duty to ensure that all workplaces are safe and secure for workers. At this stage we do not think that this is the case, which is why the commissioner would like to see a ban in all workplaces," the spokeswoman said.

The commission plans to consult with employers and trade unions first, and does not expect the new rules to be submitted for approval to national governments before late 2009, when the next EU executive assumes office.

However, it is "important to start the debate and get the ball rolling," Hughes said.

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