Smoking in restaurants restricted to sections designed for the purpose
A Working Group set up by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has drafted an amendment to the Act on Measures to Reduce Tobacco Smoking with a view to preventing the exposure of restaurant employees to tobacco smoke. Adoption of the proposed amendment will mean that after its entry into force smoking in restaurants is forbidden. Restaurant entrepreneurs could however allow smoking in an area specifically designed for the purpose. There would be no serving in that area. The amendment is proposed to apply to all restaurants, irrespective of their size.
The Working Group that has drafted the amendment submitted its report to the Minister of Health and Social Services Liisa Hyssälä and the Minister of Social Affairs and Health Sinikka Mönkäre on Tuesday 21 June. The Working Group was chaired by Director Leo Suomaa from the Ministry’s Department for Occupational Safety and Health.
The Working Group suggests that smoking should be forbidden on indoor premises in all restaurants. Smoking could however be allowed in a separate smoking section exclusively reserved for that purpose. It would be up to the restaurant entrepreneur to decide if he/she wants to provide a smoking section.
The separate smoking sections should according to the law be constructed so that tobacco smoke is not spread to the smoke-free area of the restaurant. According to the proposal, the municipal building inspection authority approves the plan for constructing the smoking section in the same context as the building licence. Provisions on the size of the smoking section and e.g. technical requirements relating to air conditioning are to be laid down by decree of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
According to the proposed amendment, it would not be allowed to serve or bring food or drinks to the smoking section. It would likewise be prohibited to place e.g. games in that area. The smoking section is only meant for smoking.
The amendment is to clarify the control of smoking in restaurants. Smoking would only be allowed in the area that is according to the building licence a smoking section. One problem in the supervision of the observation of the present law has been the definition and marking of the part of the serving area meant for smoking customers.
The restaurant entrepreneur can decide if he/she will totally forbid smoking on indoor premises or if he/she will provide for smokers a smoking section that meets the requirements laid down in the law.
In many restaurants smoking would cease altogether
In practice the law would stop smoking in numerous restaurants, since the costs of building a smoking section and an air conditioning system can be fairly high. It is not even possible to build a smoking section in all the existing restaurants. This applies in particular to older buildings.
There can be a reduction in turnover for some restaurants, and some may even have to close down. The effects are estimated to be greatest outside growth centres and in suburbs.
According to foreign experiences and studies, restrictions on smoking have had a slighter impact on the economy of restaurants than had been anticipated. For instance in Ireland, both smokers and non-smokers supported the tightening of the law. Norway is in the process of evaluating the impact of the new tobacco act. In Sweden, a corresponding law came into force at the beginning of June this year.
According to the Working Group a suitable date for the entry into force of the proposed amended Act is one year after the date of its adoption in Parliament.
For further information please contact: Director Leo Suomaa, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 9 160 73102.