The Italian health minister has introduced tough smoking rules for pubs and restaurants. Can they be enforced and could the same happen here ?
Italy, a country renowned for its laid-back attitude to life has witnessed the introduction of strict new legislation on smoking in public places, including pubs, bars and restaurants. Girolamo Sirchia, Italy's health minister, has decided against the idea of a complete ban on smoking and has instead given venues six months to introduce ventilation systems that provide at least 80 cubic metres of clean air per person per hour, as well as non-smoking areas.
The tough new laws mean that venue operators who fail to install the correct systems in the permitted time will face a £1,800 fine and be forced to become entirely non-smoking. Once a ban is in place, any customer who does not respect it will in turn be fined £900. Restaurateurs and publicans are concerned about the limited time available to upgrade their venues, as well as the cost involved. Time is not the only issue however. The rate of ventilation specified under the new legislation is nearly three times that of the Public Places Charter on Smoking's ventilation standard, in operation in the UK.
The Charter, a voluntary industry code, states that for a venue to become a ‘Ventilated Premises', the ventilation system should introduce 30 cubic metres of clean air per person per hour. Although this is a minimum requirement and factors such as low ceilings or a particularly high level of smoke would mean that the level should be increased, the Italian standard is thought to be very high. Independent air quality advisor Mike Pitts says: "This level would certainly be excessive for the majority of venues, particularly in a warm climate where natural ventilation would help to remove some of the smoke build up. Customers would actively avoid the venue and the work involved in introducing such a system would be very disruptive and expensive."
Some feel that the problems will not be of a purely technical nature. Given the reportedly unruly nature of Italians, many feel that the tough new laws will not be well received and almost impossible to police. Bruno Framellico, a former bar owner in Milan, now a UK resident says: "I cannot see the new legislation working. People do not enjoy a smoky atmosphere, but they will not want to be blown away either. I hope it will not cause people to stay at home."
Back in the UK, such tough measures are less likely due to an agreement reached with the Government for a reasonable approach to managing the smoking issue in the form of the Charter. Self regulation will only continue if the targets agreed with the Government for the end of this year are met however. "By December 2002, 50% of all venues must display a Charter sign and of these, 35% of the signs must be the ‘quality policies' of ‘Separate Areas' or ‘Ventilated Premises'," says Oliver Griffiths of AIR. "If the trade fails to meet these targets, restrictions like those imposed in Italy, South Africa and Australia are on the cards."
To support this industry initiative and let the public know your smoking policy, get your Charter sign up today. Write the number below on the nformation card inside the front cover of this issue for your free Charter signs as well as advice about how to clear the smoke.For more information visit www.airinitiative.com.