Norway's bars brace for outdoor smoking ban

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Photo: Silvia Viñuales
11:52 CEST+02:00
Norwegian lawmakers are ready to ban smoking in outdoor cafes and restaurants and put cigarettes out of reach for teachers and government workers.

A tightening of smoking laws is expected to meet resistance, just as a 2003 law banning smoking in bars and restaurants provoked protest actions by restaurateurs. Bar owners countered by opening sidewalk cafes and erecting tents in enclosed courtyards.

An alternate bill being aired aims to set safety standards for the often ad-hoc enclosures built around the seats sheltering under canopies and tents.

Asked about the proposed ban, Olaf Loly, owner of the The Dubliner pub in Oslo, told The Local the last time a ban was introduced, the government said it was to protect the staff.

“Now it seems it’s being pushed to make it so uncomfortable for smokers that they will quit, but I think people should have their freedom to smoke as long they don’t harm anyone,” Loly said.

Norway’s Labour party is behind the bill which could be voted into law quickly later this autumn, although the party’s Jonas Gahr Støre abandoned a bill aimed at shortening liquor sales hours after public hearings last year sparked outrage. Støre, according to newspaper Dagsavisen, is under fire this time for being criticized by the World Health Organization — where he served as chief of staff to director Gro Harlem Brundtland in the 90s — for not cracking down on cigarette sales under an international Tobacco Convention.

A newly hatched Health and Care Ministry said the aim of the new law is no longer merely “limiting damage to health” but “a tobacco-free society” where children “have the right to a smoke-free environment”. Under that logic, the ministry is said to be considering a ban on smoking for teachers.

Loly has invested heavily in hanging canvas over a courtyard he has heavily renovated. He earns about 25 percent of his sales from the tented outdoor area.

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Yet, while the popularity of The Dubliner keeps sales strong, other establishments would surely face closures.

“It will hurt business a little bit. When (the courtyard) goes, turnover will obviously go down. It’s a key part of your selling area,” Loly said.

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