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Austria smoking ban in effect after decade-long debate

November 1, 2019

Lighting up a cigarette with a beer or a meal is a thing of the past in Austria as a smoking ban comes into effect. Hefty fines will enforce the ban as the country looks to rid its reputation as the "ashtray of Europe."

A cigarette in an ash tray with a no smoking sign underneath
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/APA/H. Fohringer

Austria banned smoking in bars and restaurants on Friday, bringing the country's laws into line with most other European nations.

The indoor smoking ban came into effect after lawmakers approved the move in July.

Before the new law came into force, Austrians were still able to light up while drinking and eating inside bars and restaurants larger than 50 square meters (540 square feet), and as long as it was in a separate area, although this was not strictly enforced.

The smoking ban will now apply to all such establishments and will be enforced with heavy penalties.

Shisha pipes
Austria's ban also includes shishas and e-cigarettesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Nitschmann

Smokers who break the ban will have to pay €1,000 ($1,115), and owners of establishments who allow patrons to smoke will be fined $2,000 rising to €10,000 if found repeating the offense.

The smoking ban also applies to shishas and electronic cigarettes.

Read more: German state proposes smoking ban in vehicles with children

Is Austria the last country in Europe to ban indoor smoking?

Austria has an above-average percentage of smokers with 25% of its 8.8 million inhabitants smoking in comparison with an 18% average in other EU nations.

Currently, 17 EU countries have comprehensive smoke-free laws.

Ireland, the UK, Greece, Bulgaria, Malta, Spain and Hungary have the strictest laws with bans on smoking in all enclosed public spaces, on public transport and in workplaces.

Read more: India announces ban on e-cigarettes

In the Czech Republic it is up to the bar owner to decide if they want to permit smoking or not.

In Denmark, smoking is banned indoors except in Copenhagen, where it is permitted in bars under 40 square meters.

The debate about the ban has been ongoing for over 10 years, with the far-right Freedom Party — formerly led by a keen smoker — opposing the measure.

kmm/rt (AFP, dpa)

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