On Friday, Austria became one of the last countries in Europe to ban indoor smoking.
Last year, anti-smoking groups named the country the “ashtray of Europe” for being one of the last to still allow indoor smoking in bars and restaurants. A ban on indoor smoking has been debated in the Austrian Parliament for at least a decade, and it was finally approved back in July. It went into effect on November 1.
The ban has not gone over well in some of the country’s bars and nightclubs. Some clubs claim they have had to close because of a drop in number of customers due to the smoking ban.
Now when you visit Vienna or anywhere else in Austria, you will have to step outside if you wish to light up, a fierce change from the unregulated days of yore when it was legal to smoke in small cafes and restaurants (with the owner’s permission) and restaurants larger than 500 square feet in a designated smoking section.
It’s estimated that 30 percent of Austrians over the age of 15 smoke, which is one of the highest rates in all of Europe.
A ban was only seriously discussed in the Austrian parliament in 2015. Last year, a far-right party latched onto smoking indoors, defending the practice as an individual right. Despite their efforts, the government passed the ban. Although this ban is good news for people who want to avoid cigarette smoke in restaurants and bars, the country has a long way to go to decrease smoking overall. Cigarettes are still far cheaper in Austria than in countries like the United Kingdom or France thanks to their relatively low tobacco tax.