March 21, 2017
by Forest EU

Smoking in public places in Europe

Smokers must be allowed to smoke in public places where there is no significant inconvenience to others. If we’re not allowed to smoke in a park, what’s next?


Tobacco is a legal product. Smokers must be allowed to smoke in public places where there is no significant inconvenience to others. Forest EU will campaign against comprehensive smoking bans and “creeping prohibition” including outdoor smoking bans.

EU policy makers are under increasing pressure from anti-smoking activists to prevent members of the public from smoking in public places – even outdoors. Such restrictions have no basis in evidence as a valid public health measure. Instead, they represent an unwarranted restriction of people’s freedom of choice and movement. They also establish worrying precedents about the role of the state in governing people’s private lives.

It is important that policy makers bear in mind the following points:

  • Tobacco is a legal product that millions of law-abiding EU citizens enjoy. Banning people from smoking when the inconvenience to others is either very small or non-existent is wrong. It is bossy and intimidating, part of a drive to denormalise smokers when they are doing nothing wrong.
  • Smoking in many places – including almost all outdoor spaces – is usually tolerated by third parties, including non-smokers. There is no reason to restrict it, just as there is no reason to restrict any other inoffensive legal activity.
  • Banning smoking in public areas is part of a worrying trend towards the prohibition of tobacco. The next steps could include attempts to prevent people from smoking in their own home or garden.
  • It is also a sign that society is becoming less tolerant of any activity deemed undesirable by the decision-makers.

Forest EU is not against reasonable regulations that protect public health, nor do we dispute the fact that smoking can be bad for you. But we believe strongly that members of the public should be free to decide whether to smoke or not and should not be singled-out by governments if they choose to smoke. When legislating on specific issues such as smoking it is vital that policy makers bear in mind the general principles they want to uphold in a free society.

Guillaume Périgois, Director of Forest EU says:

Regulators must avoid ostracizing smokers with comprehensive smoking bans. Enjoying a cigarette outside, and indeed in many public places, need not inconvenience anybody.

Smokers should be left in peace instead of being targeted by a campaign that appears increasingly vindictive. If we’re not allowed to smoke in a park, what’s next? No smoking in your own house? No drinking alcohol or eating snacks outside? It’s a slippery slope.

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