May 30, 2006

EU citizens divided over smoking ban in bars: poll

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Most people in the European Union
support a ban on smoking in public places such as offices and
shops but they are divided over whether to prohibit tobacco in
restaurants and bars, an EU survey showed on Tuesday.

The Eurobarometer poll of 25,000 people in the 25 EU
countries showed that four out of five supported a ban on
smoking in their workplace, in shops and other indoor and
outdoor spaces.

That compared to 56 percent who supported outlawing smoking
in restaurants, and 40 percent who favored a ban in bars.

Responses differed largely from country to country, with
only 35 percent of respondents in the Czech Republic in favor
of a ban in bars compared to 88 percent in Italy.

Ireland imposed the world's first nationwide smoking ban in
public places in 2004. Sweden bans smoking in restaurants,
while Italy and Scotland have outlawed smoking in enclosed
public spaces. Many parts of the United States also have
similar bans.

The poll, published on the eve of "World No Tobacco Day"
and conducted last autumn, showed that the percentage of people
who smoked in the EU had dropped since the last report in 2002.

The proportion of smokers in the EU dropped seven points to
33 percent from three years earlier, when the bloc had 15

The number of citizens declaring they had never smoked
increased by almost five points to 47 percent, and the
percentage of those who had smoked but claimed to have given up
also increased, by three points to 22 percent.

Seventy-five percent of those polled thought other people's
smoke could be a health risk -- 39 percent said it could cause
cancer and 33 percent believed it could lead to respiratory

Among people aged between 15 and 24, 53 percent were
worried about passive smoking.

Three-quarters of respondents were aware that tobacco smoke
could represent a health risk for non-smokers, with 95 percent
acknowledging that smoking in the company of a pregnant woman
could be very dangerous for the baby.

More than 75 percent of smokers said they would not smoke
in the vicinity of a child.

The World Health Organization predicts the number of people
dying each year from cancer, cardiovascular disease or other
conditions linked to smoking could exceed 10 million by 2020,
with 70 percent of the victims in developing countries.