As most Europeans will know (and I believe our American cousins have had anti-smoking laws much longer), most European countries have banned smoking in public. And of late in restaurants and pubs (bars) as well.
The Netherlands is not much different.
Here in Holland (which really is only one province, but it’s so much easier to type) there’s some irony in the new laws though.
For example: Coffee shops. Or, as anyone who’s been to Amsterdam will know, marijuana bars. Marijuana obviously doesn’t fall under the tobacco laws, so you can still smoke marijuana in these coffee shops. Just no tobacco. So, the punters just smoke pure marijuana instead. Well done rationality.
Anyways, what you hardly hear about are the amount of bars which have had to close because of the smoking ban throughout Europe. Declines in sales range from 5% to 10%. Especially the smaller sized and rural pubs are hard hit. This is generally because larger / richer pubs can afford to build special smoking zones or have outdoor facilities.
Not to speak of restaurants who have lost the whole profit-part of the after dinner smoke (and quite frequently the dessert to boot).
Now something interesting has happened. Here in Holland, no less (the country Marx once said of: “There will be revolutions, but they won’t be in the Netherlands.&rdquo
Small pubs without employees (only the owner and / or co-owners waiter in these pubs) have won a courtcase which was brought them in against them in Breda (lots of pubs have continued to allow smoking despite the ban and the government is cracking down on them, probably because they’re easier to find than Taliban targets).
The anti-smoking laws are in place to protect the workforce (not the punters; it being there choice as to where they reside) and the court decided that since there was no workforce as such, the law shouldn’t apply to the small pub.
The government brought it to a higher court (obviously not wanting to cave in) and the higher court has upheld the lower court’s ruling, albeit it on a slightly different ground.
Now the debate:
- Could this ruling have an international effect (especially considering either party could actually escalate this case to a European ruling)?
- Is the anti-smoking lobby just one nanny-state-step too far?
- What are the implications of this ruling for other groups, businesses or individuals who don’t agree with a particular law (breaking the law to change it; i.e. direct action)?
I’m interested in your opinions.