April 25, 2011

Bar Owners Demonstrate Over Belgian Smoking Ban

More than 800 bar owners in Belgium led their supporters in demonstrations on Saturday after the Constitutional Court increased its smoking ban to include all caf©s and casinos beginning July 1, according to a report by the AFP news agency.

The federation of caf© owners and restaurateurs organized the demonstration, which was held in Brussels. The group claimed that upwards of 5,000 of the country's 12,000 cafes are in danger of closing because of the new legislation.

The country has had a smoking ban in work places, restaurants and pubs that serve food since 2009. Temporary exemptions had been granted for casinos and cafes that only serve snacks.

The law originally placed the temporary exemptions to end sometime between the 2012 and 2014, but the Flemish Anti-Cancer League asked the court to end the exemptions sooner.

Although lifting the exemptions now, the court is allowing establishments until June 30 to "adapt to the general smoking ban."

Bar owners fear that a full smoking ban will result in a loss of turnover of up to 50 percent, and warn that breweries and other suppliers will also feel the pinch.

But judges ruled that there is no proof that that pubs would be harmed by a general smoking ban, adding that drawing distinctions between establishments was actually harmful to competition. The court also said that the protection of the health of employees and non-smokers should apply to casinos as well.