Efforts by anti-smoking campaigners to reinstate a smoking ban in small cafes and bars failed on Wednesday when judges in The Hague ruled the law does allow exceptions.
Anti-smoking group Clean Air Nederland took the Dutch state to court in an effort to enforce a ban on smoking in all bars and cafes.
One of the first acts of the current government in 2010 was to relax the ban so that bars smaller than 70m2 with no staff did not have to comply.
However, the ban, brought in over four years ago, is widely flouted in bigger bars, cafes and night clubs.
Clean Air Nederland argued the current situation has led to unfair competition with bars which do keep the law. In addition, ‘the state is breaking international agreements to discourage smoking’ and undermining existing Dutch laws, the organisation said.
The court in The Hague said current tobacco laws do allow exemptions to the ban. In addition, the judges said claims that the relaxation of the rules conflicted with the Dutch constitution were not proven.
‘The exemption for small bars has led to smoking in around half of all cafes,’ Clean Air Nederland said in a reaction. ‘This not only damages the health of other patrons but of a lot of workers.’