World News

Poland bans smoking in most bars, restaurants

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has joined a growing list of nations to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places, a move welcomed by health experts and non-smokers.

A reflection of the Palace of Culture is seen in a sign which reads "Please don't smoke" in a bar in the centre of Warsaw November 15, 2010. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Under a law which took effect on Monday, the ban allows establishments bigger than 100 square metres to set aside a designated room for smokers, but it must meet certain air conditioning standards.

More than half of Poles back the new ban while 15 percent are strongly opposed, according to a survey published in the Polish language edition of Newsweek magazine.

Less than 30 percent of adult Poles smoke, the survey said.

“The good news is ... the number of Poles who smoke is decreasing, so we are on the right track,” said Paulina Miskiewicz, head of the World Health Organisation’s office in Poland.

“What we need is to continue to make (this trend) more powerful, visible, so that really more and more people quit smoking or do not start smoking at all.”

A leading business lobby, Employers of Poland, described the law as “a reasonable compromise” after authorities rejected stricter legislation that would have confined smoking to private homes, but warned that public finances might suffer.

“According to international experience, all states have suffered a fall in revenues due to lower numbers of clients (in bars and restaurants) in the short term after introducing a smoking ban,” it said in a statement.

Reaction to the ban from non-smokers was positive.

“It irritated me that I was doomed to second-hand smoke in pubs, clubs, cafes and that, after leaving these places, my hair, clothes smelled of cigarettes,” said Justyna Amanowicz.

“Now as a mother I am happy I can go with my son to any cafe and I do not have to worry he will inhale bad tobacco smoke.”

Some fretted about the impact of the ban on smaller businesses and doubted whether it could be enforced.

“It is always easy to introduce a ban but more difficult to uphold it. This will cost lots of money... I’m not sure this is the best solution,” said non-smoking banker Daniel Henkelmann, 33.

In Greece, one of Europe’s heaviest-smoking nations, bar and restaurant owners grappling with the effects of a deep recession are defying a similar smoking ban that took effect on Sept. 1.

“If the law is not seriously complied with, the state’s prestige will suffer. But if it is, it will create conflicts,” said Jerzy Ziemacki, 23, a journalist who smokes.

“I’m against all these childish propaganda campaigns. You can actually smoke and be healthy. You can also be sick without smoking at all,” he said.

Reporting by Ewa Rejzler and Gabriela Baczynska, writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Tim Pearce