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Overview of smoke-free legislation and its implementation in the EU

22 February 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 22 February 2013

Protection from second hand smoke has improved considerably in the EU, according to a report published by the European Commission on 22 February 2013. 28% of Europeans were exposed to second hand smoke in bars in 2012 - down from 46% in 2009. The report is based on self-reporting by the 27 Member States, following the 2009 Council Recommendation on Smoke-free Environments (2009/C 296/02), which called upon governments to adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport. The report dispels concerns about smoking bans impacting negatively on the revenues of bars and restaurants, by showing that the economic impact has been limited, neutral and even positive over time. However, the report also illustrates that some Member States are lagging behind, in terms of comprehensive laws protecting public health, and enforcement.


Exposure to second hand tobacco smoke is a wide-spread source of mortality, morbidity and disability in the EU. According to conservative estimates (Council Recommendation of 30 November 2009 on smoke-free environments (2009/C 296/02)

), more than 70 000 adults in the EU died due to exposure to tobacco smoke in 2002, many of them non-smokers or employees exposed to second hand smoking at their workplaces.


The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control calls on all of its signatories (176 parties) to provide effective "protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places, and, as appropriate, other public places". Guidelines were adopted in 2007 to help parties meet their obligations.


It was against this background that the EU Council adopted a Council Recommendation on Smoke-free Environments in 2009, calling on Member States to introduce measures to provide effective protection against exposure to second hand smoke no later than November 2012.


Other key findings of the report:



  • All Member States report that they have adopted measures to protect citizens against exposure to tobacco smoke.
  • National measures differ considerably in extent and scope. About half of the Member States have adopted or strengthened their smoke-free legislation since 2009. Many also started earlier.
  • Enforcement seems to be a problem in some Member States. Complex legislation (i.e. legislation with exemptions) is found to be particularly difficult to enforce.
  • The actual exposure rates for EU citizens dropped overall from 2009 to 2012 (e.g. for citizens visiting drinking places the exposure rate dropped from 46% to 28%). There are however very significant differences between Member States.
  • Belgium, Spain and Poland are examples of countries where the adoption of comprehensive legislation led to very significant drops in exposure rates within a short period of time.
  • The positive health effects of smoke-free legislation are immediate and include a reduction in the incidence of heart attacks and improvements in respiratory health.
  • Public support for smoke-free legislation is very high in Europe. A 2009 survey showed that a majority of Europeans are supportive. This is also supported by national surveys which reveal that support increased after introduction of effective measures.

Detailed overview of the legislation in the EU

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