Julia Lenart

Popular Petition: “Don’t Smoke”

The first week of October is going to see a popular petition concerning the No-Smoking-Petition that reached almost 600.000 subscribers this spring. From October 1st-8th people can sign the petition that calls for a no smoking policy in restaurants.

What is the petition for?

Hosts fear their businesses to stay empty

In April 2015 the former minister of health, Sabine Oberhauser (SPÖ) proposed a new tobacco law. The law would have banned smokers from restaurants, or at least have them smoke in separate rooms. The restrictions were meant to include conventional cigarettes as well as smoking devices such as e-cigarettes or shishas. A tax bonus should help hosts making their businesses smoking-free.

This nonsmoker protection law should have come into effect in May 2018. The new ÖVP-FPÖ government stopped this. Now the Wiener Ärztekammer and the Krebshilfe Austria demand the law to come into force. In spring a petition brought 591.146 statements of support (a popular petition needs at least 500.000 supporters in order to be discussed in parliament).

A long debate about the people’s health

The discussion about more smoking restrictions in gastronomical businesses has been going on for a long time. Supporters (especially SPÖ and Grüne) try to enforce a stronger health policy, while opponents (FPÖ and formerly Team Stronach) see the freedom of smokers endangered and fear financial crisis in the restaurant business.

Smoking is bad for your health

As a matter of fact, 11.-14.000 Austrians die every year in consequence of smoking. But it isn’t just active smoking, that is dangerous; passive smoking is being underestimated. Small particles that are produced by smoking can easily get into the respiratory tract and produce severe damage. Asthma, lung cancer and bronchitis can be caused by passive smoking as well as cardiovascular diseases. The fine dust pollution in smoker-taverns is 10-20% higher than on the streets (in clubs up to 80%). Furthermore, the starting age is (compared to other EU member states) quite low in Austria, while the percentage of smokers is pretty high (25%). The former minister of health, Sabine Oberhauser (SPÖ), wanted to put an end to this state. She took an example from other countries (Ireland or Italy) that already have a very well working no-smoking policy.

The petition

The turquoise-blue coalition stopped the new tobacco law from taking force, arguing that hosts might have to close their businesses and that the law would restrict people’s freedom.

The Wiener Ärztekammer and the Krebshilfe fight this decision. More than 500.000 statements of support were collected last spring. Therefore the popular petition will take place from 1st-8th October 2018. All Austrian citizens from the age of 16 can sign; either by mobile-signature or in municipal coucils. Who has already given their statement of support in spring, must not sign again – their signature has already been noted.

Because it is a popular petition with enough supporters, the no-smoking-issue has to be discussed in parliament. It is going to be an interesting development.

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