Italy's planned smoking ban prompts rebellion from bar-owners

Italy's proposed ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, due to come into force this week, has met with resistance from bar and restaurant owners who say they will refuse to police it.

The law is designed to end passive smoking in public places but relies on bar and restaurant owners ensuring their customers do not smoke. A fine of €2,000 can be imposed if they do not comply and undercover police are reported to be planning late-night crackdowns.

However, many owners, fearing the loss of many of their regular customers, have said the ban is unfair and are threatening to appeal to the country's administrative tribunal to block it.

Smoking would only be allowed in bars and restaurants if a separate room was provided specifically for smokers, but owners say this would be too expensive.

The bar and restaurant owners have found an ally in Defence Minister Antonio Martino, who told Reuter's: "After Nazism and Fascism it was Communism that fell. The concept where the state could control everything seemed to have suffered a resounding, definitive defeat, but no. Defeated on the economic front, the enemies of liberty are looking for victories in other areas."

Italy is the latest in a long list of countries to impose smoking bans. Ireland was the first with a nationwide ban in March 2004 in all workplaces, pubs, bars and restaurants, followed by India in May, Norway in June, Hong Kong in October, and Scotland in November.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan became the first country in the world to prohibit tobacco sales as well as banning smoking in public, in December.

By David Hopkins



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