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The European Commission has urged member states to adopt more aggressive bans on public smoking to achieve a "smoke-free" Europe by 2012
The European Commission on Tuesday (30 June) called on member states to boost their non-smoking legislation in order to move towards a "smoke free" EU by 2012.
The commission is suggesting the bloc's 27 member states agree smoking in "enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport" be banned by 2012, while children's exposure to tobacco should be specifically tackled and "efforts to give up tobacco use and pictorial warnings on tobacco packages" should be encouraged.
According to commission estimates, 25 percent of cancer deaths and 15 percent of total deaths in the EU can be attributed to smoking.
Last year alone, 6,000 people died in the EU just from "workplace exposure to tobacco smoke," including 2,500 non-smokers, it says.
"It is my firm belief that each and every European merits full protection from tobacco smoke. There is a wave of support from the general public and we will work with member states to make this a reality," EU health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said.
According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, around 32 percent of the bloc's citizens currently smoke, with the proportion being highest in Greece (42%), Bulgaria (39%) and Latvia (38%).
Simultaneously, a large majority of Europeans favour smoking ban in the workplace (84%), restaurants (79%), as well as also bars, clubs and pubs (65%).
"We have come a long way since the time smoking was considered glamorous," Ms Vassiliou said.
She praised the UK and Ireland for being the two only member states where a full smoking ban has been introduced for all work and public places, adding that Bulgaria is to follow suit in 2010.
In eight other member states—Italy, Malta, Sweden, Latvia, Finland, Slovenia, France and the Netherlands—there is legislation banning smoking at work and in public places, but allowing for special enclosed smoking rooms.
In other EU countries "some form of legislation" aimed to limit smoking in public areas exists, "but it's not ideal."
UK pub scare
The EU proposal was met with scepticism and by some, however. The UK Independence Party says it will further harm UK pubs and accused Brussels of crossing the line.
"Nobody pretends that smoking is a good thing, but it is legal," said UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom.
"These bullies seem to have no truck with freedom, liberty or tolerance. Well in that case we shall have to take it back. And if that means a certain level of civil disobedience, well so be it," Mr Bloom added.