1 in 6 bar-owners still ignore smoking ban

According to figures from the Federal Health Department, 1 in 6 bar-owners in Belgium still flout the smoking ban that was brought in in the summer of 2011. The Heath Department points the figure firmly at the Hospitality Industry Federal that it says is “for to understanding” of bar-owners that ignore the anti-smoking regulations.

Since the introduction of the smoking ban in 2011, Health Department inspectors have carried an average of 5,000 inspections per annum to ensure that the ban is adhered to.

During the first half of year 3,000 such inspections were carried out. 16% of the bars that were inspected were found to be flouting the anti-smoking legislation.

Speaking in an interview with the daily ‘De Standaard’, the Head of the Inspection Service Paul Van den Meersche said that although this is less than in previous years the number of infractions is falling too slowly.

According to Mr Van den Meersche some bars have been fined for breaking the anti-smoking laws several times
"However, fines and convictions don’t stop bars from ignoring the ban. Often ash trays are got out late at night, but there are also bars that allow smoking day and night.”

Temporary closure as a deterent

The previous Federal Government lead by Elio Di Rupo (Francophone socialist) increased the maximum penalties for breaching the smoking ban from 1,600 to 5,000 euro and also provide for the possibility of temporary closure for a period of up to 6 months. Mr Van den Meersche hopes that this will have an effect.

"The smoking ban is accepted and adhered to in the whole of Europe, apart from here", Mr Van den Meersche complains.

On 1 October a court case starts against number of Brussels bar-owners that have been caught flouting the ban several times. Mr Van den Meersche believes that if a temporary closure order were imposed on them it could act as a deterrent to others. He also points the finger at industry organisations.

"The Neutral Independent Traders Union (NSZ) recognises that smoking is not allowed in bars, but shows understanding for those that flout the rules because the hospitality industry already has so many financial difficulties. This position is unacceptable", Mr
Van den Meersche concludes.