SDKÚ-DS MP Viliam Novotný senses that there is a lobby of tobacco producers and distributors behind the recently-approved amendment to the Non-Smokers Protection Act, he told the TASR newswire on February 22. He added that it was in the interest of restaurant and pub owners to ensure there are designated smoking areas as well as the producers and distributors of tobacco products.
The original bill, drafted by the Health Ministry, required both bars and restaurants to build a solid wall to divide smokers from non-smokers. This would have applied to all such facilities - those which serve food, as well as those which offer only drinks. However, a modified proposal by Smer-SD MP Peter Pelegrini was adopted, and the amendment will only apply to facilities that prepare, produce or serve food.
Novotný says that the Pelegrini version destroyed the ministry's original amendment. Pelegrini, however, denied any accusations of being under the influence of lobbyists. “I can't imagine who could lobby on behalf of thousands of small cafés and pubs as to whether there will be smoking allowed, or not,” said Pelegrini, stressing that he definitely thought that his proposal had improved the situation.
“Many of these facilities will now become non-smoking, which will improve the conditions for non-smokers. Of course, we’ve also taken the feelings of small facilities into consideration, so that they don't have to build divisions. They have the right to decide,” he said.
Katarína Tóthová of the ĽS-HZDS told TASR that economic aspects had in fact played an important role in deciding on the amendment’s wording, which she said wasn’t really right.
“Selling tobacco products represents income to the state budget, but it’s evident that the number of smokers in the countries that have already banned smoking in restaurants and bars has dropped,” Tóthová pointed out. She says she favours a total ban on smoking in pubs and other such facilities. She predicts that such a law will pass in Parliament in one or two years.
Pelegrini, on the other hand, claims to have statistics which imply that the number of smokers in countries with an absolute ban hasn’t dropped so significantly.
“I don't view a one percent drop as significant. Thus, I think that there won’t be a fall in sales, people will continue smoking. Sales would be the last thing I would worry about,” he said. TASR
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.
23. Feb 2009 at 14:00