The hotel and catering trade says it will back a ban on smoking in restaurants, hotels and fast-food outlets from January 2008, if health minister Ab Klink gives cafés and discos more time to take anti-smoking measures.
Klink wants a complete ban by next year, while the government coalition agreement states a target date of 2011.
In talks with catering lobby group Horeca Nederland, Klink has stressed that it is vital for staff to be protected from the harmful effects of passive smoking. Workers have had a legal right to a smoke-free workplace since 2004, with the exception of catering and bar personnel.
Anti-smoking lobby group Stivoro is totally opposed to the idea of phasing in the smoking ban. The health of a bar-man is just as important as the health of a restaurant waiter, the organisation said in a press release. A partial smoking ban applying to some catering establishments but not others, such as in Belgium, leads to confusion, it said.
Around 30% of the Dutch population smoke. The previous government set up a covenant with the catering trade to reduce the nuisance caused by smoke, but its effects have been limited. Only a small proportion of Dutch restaurants, for example, are smoke free.
The minister will make a decision on the issue at the end of this month, news agency ANP reported.
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