Flouting the smoking ban in Brussels? 9 out of 10 times this has no consequences

The VRT's news desk accompanied federal health inspectors last night to see whether the smoking ban in Brussels pubs and cafés was being respected and what the consequences actually are if this is not the case. The results were astonishing. 

Inspections teams visited 88 cafés. While a general smoking ban applies inside, the rules were broken in no less than 42 percent of the cases. These pub landlords can expect a fine, but if they don't pay the bill, they will be let off the hook in 91 percent of the cases.

The VRT had access to the figures: it turns out that the Brussels judicial authorities are not making a priority of smoking fines for pub owners, dropping 91 percent of the cases. In Flanders, this figure is at 52 percent, about the same as in Wallonia (51 percent).  

Brussels pub owners have a feeling of impunity

The news does not come as a surprise: Brussels cafés don't have a good reputation in this respect. Looking at the figures for a whole year, 12 percent of the pubs across Flanders were found breaking the rules, and only 10 percent in Wallonia, but for Brussels this figure was 34 percent.

Asking what could be the cause, many cite "impunity": "In the rest of the country pub owners risk fines of up to 8,000 euros, or they may even have to close their business if they don't pay the fine, while in Brussels owners have the feeling they won't be punished."  

A first fine will start from 208 euros for the smoker and the landlord, but if they don't pay and the judicial authorities start a case, this can easily become 6,000 to 8,000 euros.