Ban smoking in al fresco dining areas? Don't mention the Germans!
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 10:11
Simon Clark

Next week the St Helier Roads Committee in Jersey will discuss a proposal to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas.

To date, and to the best of my knowledge, no other town or city in the British Isles (or Europe, come to that) has introduced such a ban.

A few years ago Brighton City Council included the idea in a public consultation but following a negative reaction the Council rejected proposals to extend the smoking ban to outdoor areas.

The Irish Government is currently sitting on a proposal to ban smoking in al fresco dining areas but no decision is imminent so St Helier could be the first to go down that route.

A few weeks ago, when the issue first raised its head, I was quoted in the Jersey Evening Post and on Monday Forest submitted a ten-page response to the Roads Committee consultation. It concluded:

Pubs, restaurants and cafes are private businesses. Whether they choose to allow smoking in al fresco dining areas, where there is no risk to anyone else's health, should be up to them. Pubs and bars took a huge hit from the smoking ban with many closing as a direct result. Why should the future of many more businesses – including cafes and restaurants – be put at risk on the altar of tobacco control?

Banning smoking outside, even in al fresco dining areas, is unfair and unreasonable and will do nothing to improve public health. We urge the St Helier Roads Committee to reject the proposal and give owners of outdoor dining areas the freedom to implement policies that best suit their business, not the agenda of a small group of anti-smoking zealots.

What I didn't add, although I was sorely tempted, was to say that if a ban on smoking in al fresco dining areas is introduced in St Helier then Germany, the country that occupied Jersey during the Second World War, will seem like a beacon of liberty in comparison.

Instead, in the hope that the Committee might spot the irony for themselves, I wrote:

Interestingly Germany represents one of the more liberal European nations when it comes to regulations on smoking in public places. Policies differ from state to state but in several states smoking is still allowed in small bars (at the owners’ discretion). One can only speculate why this is the case but some people believe that for historical reasons successive German governments have been reluctant to be too repressive in the way it treats its citizens, including those who choose to smoke.

Germany is not alone however and Austria also gives many cafes, bars and restaurants the right to be ‘smoking’ or ‘non-smoking’ indoors and out. In other EU member states such as Belgium there are few bars and restaurants with street or garden terraces that do not welcome smokers. Many 'adapt' their terraces to the cold weather, offering smokers a confortable place to smoke, drink and eat.

Choice, not prohibition, is the key to a free and liberal society and we urge the Roads Committee to follow their example and reject regressive, authoritarian regulations on small businesses and consumers of a legitimate product.

The Roads Committee will discuss the matter at their meeting on Wednesday December 12. I'll keep you posted.

See also: Forest responds to consultation on smoking in al fresco smoking areas.

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