Slovenia sends no-smoking signals to smokers


Slovenia is taking its first steps towards seriously limiting where people can smoke. With general public approval, new legislation restricting tobacco is almost certain to pass.

Lighters are set to go silent in Slovenia, at least in public places, according to a new amendment drafted last month. Shortly after New Year's, the Slovenian Ministry of Health announced that it would amend the existing law on the usage of tobacco products in the country. The new law will ban all smoking in public places, including places that had previously been spared, like bars and restaraunts.

It's a trend that has slowly been making its way through the European Union, ever since Ireland became the first European country to ban indoor smoking in 2004. Mihaela Lovse, head of the Slovenian Association for Tobacco Control:

"Every year there are more European countries that have accepted such legislation and also we hope that Slovenia will accept it in June this year - this proposal for tobacco legislation. There are also in Slovenia public opinion polls on smoking in the workplace that show that 80% accept such legislation."

Slovenia is now expected to join the ranks of countries like Italy, Malta and Sweden, in providing smokers with isolated ‚»smoking rooms.‚« According to the proposed amendment, visitors to these smoking rooms will not be allowed to be served food or drinks. The Slovenian government estimates that 3,000 Slovenes die every year as a result of tobacco use, and that a portion of these deaths are due to ‚»passive smoking.‚« Polls in the EU and in Slovenia have shown that the public generally favors tighter restrictions on tobacco use, meaning that the new amendment is almost guaranteed to pass.

This is good news for the EU's health commissioner, who recently floated the idea of EU-wide legislation to make the continent ‚»smoke-free.‚« There are hold-outs however, such as Germany, which has declared no intentions of banning smoking. And other European countries, such as Spain, Belgium or Lithuania, have general smoking bans but allow for exceptions.

Slovenia's new tobacco law, besides implementing an indoor smoking ban, will also make it more difficult for minors to buy cigarettes. The current law, for example, allows tobacco products to be sold in grocery stores or in other places selling food.

Slovenian smokers, in the meantime, have a few more months to enjoy a cigarette in a bar or restaruant, before the hammer falls this summer.