Malta Goes Smoke Free - 12/4/2005

link to The Times article

Smoking ban in all bars, restaurants from today
Cynthia Busuttil

As from today no smoking is allowed in any entertainment establishment, irrespective of its size, unless it has a smoking room that complies with a number of technical specifications.

Regulations covering entertainment establishments first came into force in October, laying down that outlets measuring over 60 square metres had to be non-smoking or have a smoking room.

Contacted yesterday, Health Minister Louis Deguara said that before today certain establishments could have abused the clause regarding size but from now on the rules applied to all.

The police, he said, were in duty bound to investigate any anonymous reports because a person lodging a report about somebody smoking in an establishment did not need to give his name.

He said everyone had the right to lodge a report with the police if someone was seen smoking outside a smoking room. Up to the last week of February, legal action had been started against 12 entertainment establishments for allowing people to smoke inside their premises.

Referring to a survey carried out for The Sunday Times, Dr Deguara said the vast majority of people backed the government over the issue. In fact, the survey showed that more than 71 per cent of Maltese smokers and over 95 per cent of non-smokers supported the law regulating smoking in public places.

"With a certain amount of satisfaction I can say that without any doubt the introduction of the smoking regulations has brought about more awareness about passive smoking. I personally have received quite a good number of letters congratulating the government for the steps taken in this regard," he said.

The minister said that even on an international level Malta was congratulated for being among the first three countries in Europe to have introduced a smoking ban in public places, including in entertainment establishments.

Asked whether the smoking regulations have brought about a change in culture, Dr Deguara said culture took years to change but "we are on the right track", adding that it seemed there was a downward trend in the sale of cigarettes.

The minister said there was still a long way to go but noted that smoking in restaurants was already almost non-existent.

"With regard to bars, we have to work harder to convince smokers and non-smokers about the dangers of passive smoking. The whole issue centres on public health and therefore there is no room for compromise," he said.

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