Less than a third of the European Union's Member States have introduced fully comprehensive smokefree legislation, three years after the world's first public health treaty on tobacco control - the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) - introduced the need for protecting employees from the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke.

Today's 'Spotlight on the FCTC*' reveals how only nine of the 25 EU Member States that have signed and ratified the WHO treaty have so far introduced comprehensive smokefree legislation - leaving over half of Europe's workforce exposed to secondhand smoke.

When tobacco smoke contaminates the air, it is breathed by everyone - smokers and non-smokers alike. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke including 69 known carcinogens.

Comprehensive smokefree legislation has been introduced in Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK. Jean-Luc Eiselé, Executive Director at the European Respiratory Society said: "The scientific evidence is clear: secondhand smoke kills. Only comprehensive smoke free legislation fully protects workers from the detrimental effects of second hand smoke. We congratulate those countries that have taken the steps necessary to become smokefree, but all workers in the EU should have the same level of protection"

Jean King, Director of Tobacco Control at Cancer Research UK added: "Countries that have already introduced comprehensive smokefree legislation are finding that the legislation is workable and has almost immediate health benefits. We hope these examples will encourage the countries that have not yet taken the necessary action to introduce smokefree workplaces to do so as soon as possible."

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims to protect people from the health, economic and social impacts of tobacco. It recognises that secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke has been scientifically proven to cause death, disease and disability. Countries that have signed and ratified the FCTC are required to reflect its principles in their national legislation and polices including the provisions concerning second hand smoke.

'Spotlight on the FCTC' , prepared by the Smokefree Partnership, highlights how the European Commission, European Parliament and EU Member States have met, or in some cases failed to meet, their obligations to tackle second hand smoke, according to Article 8 of the convention.

The booklet also draws attention to the fact the European Parliament failed to maintain its own comprehensive smoking ban, which was introduced in January 2007, and lasted 43 days before being revoked by the governing body of MEPs. A ruling by the European Ombudsman found that the Parliament was failing to protect the health of its staff.

A 2007 Parliamentary report led by MEP Karl Heinz Florenz in response to a Commission Green Paper on a smokefree Europe, states that 'only a full smoking ban in all enclosed workplaces, including catering and drinking establishments, and all public buildings and transport, can protect the health of employees and non smokers'. The report also called on the Parliament's Bureau, in the light of its duty to set an example, to implement a full smoking ban in all parts of the Parliament - but no action has yet been taken.

MEP Gerard Onesta said: "The alarming decision by the European Parliament to scrap its own smokefree rules highlights a dangerous disregard some MEP's have for the health of those workers affected. Their original commitment to a smokefree European Parliament showed they understood the dangers of secondhand smoke. They urgently need to lead by example and reverse this disastrous setback for the future of a healthy Europe."

MEP Karl Heinz Florenz added: I will continue to fight for strong smoke free policies at national and European level as well as in the European Parliament itself. MEPs and the European Parliament as an institution should live up to their public health responsibilities and take the lead on this issue. The smoking ban in the European Parliament needs to be put into effect now!

This article has been written on behalf of the European Respiratory Society and Cancer Research UK. The Smoke Free Partnership (SFP) is strategic, independent and flexible and aims to promote tobacco control advocacy and policy research at EU and national levels in collaboration with other EU health organisations and EU tobacco control networks.

The 'Spotlight on the FCTC' is a series of briefing papers on the FCTC and EU's associated obligations prepared by the Smokefree Partnership.

Smokefree Partnership
49-51 rue de Tréves, 1040 Brussels
smokefreepartnership.eu

The FCTC

The FCTC is the world's first international public health treaty. It recognises the harm that tobacco products and the companies that produce them can cause. The Treaty sets out legally binding objectives and principles that countries or regional economic integration organisations such as the European Community (known as Parties) who ratified and thus agreed to implement the Treaty must follow.

All EU Member States, with the exception of Italy and the Czech Republic, have signed and ratified the FCTC so the principles of the Treaty must be reflected in their national legislation and polices. The European Community (EC), represented by the European Commission, is also a Party to the FCTC.

The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control (FCA)

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