Smoking law violations in Slovenia

Although Slovenia is not actively considering a total smoking ban, it already has active restrictions on smoking in public. The law states that there must be a clear physical divide between smoking and non-smoking areas. However, there is an exception to this, which many Slovenian pubs and restaurants take advantage of: The areas do not need to be separated if there is appropriate ventilation preventing the air in both areas from mixing. What constitutes "proper ventilation" seems to be open to interpretation - at least by some business owners.

According to Slovenia's Health Inspectorate, problems with proper ventilation constitute the vast majority of violations. Technically, of course, it's a more difficult solution, than simply divided smoking and non-smoking areas. For its part, the Slovenian Health Inspectorate is running regular checks. Health Inspector Anton Percic:

"In 2005, the Slovenian Health Inspectorate carried out more than 5,600 inspections in connection with the law on separate smoking and non-smoking areas in restaurants - that is around 100 inspections per week. These inspections can be part of regular health inspections of restaurants, cafes, bars etc. Some inspections were also carried out on the basis of reports of violations of the law. And there are also controls outside regular working times when a larger number of violations can be expected."

According to Percic, the number of violations has been in decline since the law was passed ten years ago. The threat of large fines has played a large role in this.

"[In cases of serious, repeated violations] for firms, the fine can range between 2,000 euros and 33,000 euros. However, health inspectors are only allowed to impose the lowest fine, i.e. 2,000 euros. For the self-employed there is a fine from 800 euros to 12,000 euros, but once again the inspectors are only allowed to impose the lowest fine. For restaurant managers there is a fine from 400 euros to 1,000 euros."

The health inspectorate has also made an effort to clamp down on the other side of the equation: people who smoke in smoke-free areas. People, who smoke in places like, for example, schools or hospitals, will face a 125 euro fine. It's a considerable amount for a country where average monthly wages are just four or five times higher. However, about a quarter of the adult population smokes in Slovenia, meaning that the inspectorate will have its work cut out in the years to come.