A complete ban on smoking in the workplace is closer to reality after the
European Commission announced plans to draft new legislation that would outlaw
lighting up at work.
European commissioner for health David Byrne said he intends to introduce Europe-wide
legislation and was "about to conceive a major initiative aimed at banning
smoking in workplaces" throughout the 15-country European Union (EU).
Byrne told a tobacco conference in Helsinki that the risks of passive
smoking were so great that only a blanket ban could protect workers’ health. He
added that he was working with employment and social affairs Commissioner Anna
Diamontopoulou to frame the initiative.
"Passive smoking may account for between 30,000 and 50,000 deaths every
year in the EU.
"I’m determined to exploit all the possibilities that the [EU] Treaty
offers to achieve a EU-wide ban," he said.
Commission health official Beata Gminder confirmed to Personnel Today that
it was looking at the possibility of basing a ban on current European health
and safety legislation.
"We have some directives in place now that concentrate on exposure to
chemicals and we’re looking to see if there’s anything in them which would
allow us to do something on passive smoking," she said.
"We’re committed to reducing people’s exposure to health risks in the
workplace – as are all the countries that signed the World Health Organisation
framework convention on tobacco control."
Charles Cotton, reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development, said the ban would only be problematic in places such as bars or
restaurants where the public might still be smoking.
"Many organisations have already banned smoking in the workplace and
this seems to be following the trend from the US," he said.
By Ross Wigham