A total ban on smoking in all bars came into force on 1 July 2011. However, more than 8 years later many bars in the capital fail to ensure that it is enforced. This is particularly true late in the evening or during the early hours of the morning. On the night of 10 July teams of Health Department inspectors carried out spot checks on almost 100 Brussels bars. Just under half of the bars checked were found to be flouting the anti-smoking legislation.
The figures for Brussels are much higher than those for Wallonia and Flanders. The Health Department’s Chief Inspector Paul Van den Meersche told VRT News that “There is a greater sense of impunity in Brussels than in the rest of the country. In Flanders and Wallonia bar-owners are sanctioned with fines and even temporary closure. However, in Brussels this kind of firm hand is lacking”.
Mr Van den Meersche added that fines are issued. However, if they remain unpaid the Judicial Authorities often don’t prosecute due to the pressure of work that they are already under in Brussels. A lack of inspectors in Brussels is also an issue. Currently there are just two, while there should be four.