Why this story matters:
Going outside to smoke when in restaurants and bars is still controversial in Austria. A ban on smoking in public places has been in place since 2009, but restaurants are still allowed to designate a smoking area. A total smoking ban was to come into effect this May was just blocked.
This past december the newly formed FPÖ-ÖVP government declared that instead of the ban, they will focus on the protection of children and youth from the negative effects of nicotine, by raising the legal smoking age from 16 to 18.
Within days after this announcement, an unofficial 'Do not smoke' online petition was launched and has since obtained over 400,000 signatures. Many politicians, doctors and experts criticized backtracking on total ban very harshly.
The Viennese Medical Chamber has therefore decided to start an official petition to keep the original law for the protection of non-smokers, and thus the ban, in place. In order for it to be successful, i.e. for the proposal to be discussed in parliament, 100,000 citizens of voting age must sign it in one week.
The irony of the situation is that the FPO has often voiced their support for a more direct democracy in Austria. Now that they are in power, it may not turn out to work in their favor.
Details from the story:
- The legal smoking age in Austria is currently 16.
- About a quarter of Austrians are regular smokers.
- Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Austrians are in favor of the smoking ban in restaurants, many smokers included.