In the 1930’s smoking was seen as the “in” thing to do. Social and economic pressure was such that no-one knew or cared about the consequences of smoking. This was also true in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. My own feeling is that it was a case of lack of knowledge other risks rather than a deliberate hiding of the truth of what smoking could do to one’s lungs.
Fast forward to the 2000’s and in some countries earlier and you can see that far from being seen as the thing to do smoking is now almost on a parallel with murder.
Romania has moved with the times. On the 29th January 2016 President Johanas signed into law the amendments to Romanian Law 349. Law 349 was originally intended to prevent and combat the effects of tobacco products. Although being in force since 2002 it was been very poorly enforced and in many cases not at all. Restaurants and bars were allowed to decide themselves what areas were designated as smoking or non smoking areas.
All this will change with effect from 16th March when the amendments to the law come into force. With effect from that date smoking will be banned in all enclosed public places. Any person caught smoking will receive a fine of upto five hundred (500) RON and the person who will receive the largest fimne will be the owner of the premises where smoking was allowed. This fine will be between five thousand (5,000) RON to ten thousand (10,000) RON. The restaurants, bars, and clubs that break the rules also risk having their operating licenses suspended.
It will now be possible to go into a restaurant or bar and not be met with a cloud of smoke which both ruined your meal/drink and necessitated your clothes being cleaned or at least aired the next day.
The tobacco lobby and other interested parties brought a case in the constitutional court to have the amendments to Law 349 rules un-constitutional. In this they failed. Smoking will still be allowed in two places, neither of which in our view will impact on most people. The first is smoking will still be allowed in maximum security prisons and secondly it will be allowed in special designated areas in transit lounges at airports.
This reminds me of the times when I used to fly TAROM to Romanian in the early 1990’s when smoking was allowed in alternative rows or sometimes the left hand side was designated a smoking area and the right hand side smoke free.
There is no doubt though that some businesses will seriously be affected by the smoking ban. In Ireland there was a marked decline of sales in public houses when the ban came into force there. Whether this will happen in Romania who can tell? Most of the people I know who smoke have indicated that whilst they are in favour of the ban they will still continue to smoke and none have indicated it will make them stop entirely. Some have welcomed it as a way of reducing their own consumption.
One industry who has expressed some concern is the Romanian gambling industry. They have noted that many of their clients smoke heavily during gambling sessions. If they cannot smoke at the tables or in the rooms where gambling takes place then they feel that many clients will leave or at least limit the time that they play the tables.
What will be the real result? There should be a reduction in the number of smoke related illnesses and therefore a reduction of some pressure on the health facilities of Romania; alternatively there may be a larger than expected reduction of income to the Romanian State Budget which will not be offset but the reduction of cases in the hospitals. Perhaps the Government should have increased the tax on cigarettes and tobacco products to try and off-set this.
Whatever happens it will be another chapter in Romania’s journey to integration into the EU and Europe.