Groups fire up new bans on smoking
February 18, 2010
Norway’s remaining smokers already face widespread restrictions on where they can light up, and now more loom. A new coalition of athletic, health and labour organizations is proposing tough new smoking bans outdoors as well as indoors, and a survey in newspaper Aftenposten indicates they have broad public support.
Six out of 10 Norwegians now want to ban smoking at outdoor bus stops and train stations. Nearly 50 percent want to ban smoking in the designated outdoor smoking areas of restaurants, bars and cafés. Fully 67 percent of those questioned want to raise the legal age for buying tobacco to 20, from 18.
Seventy-two percent of those questioned want to see a total ban on smoking for both teachers and students during school hours, both on and off campus. And 41 percent support a proposal to prohibit the sale of tobacco products in the evening, in line with current bans on the sale of alcohol after certain hours. In most Norwegian townships, for example, shoppers can’t buy beer in local grocery stores after 8pm, even though the store may be open longer. Anti-smoking advocates think similar restrictions should apply to tobacco.
The Aftenposten survey, conducted by research firm Respons, indicates that the general public supports even stricter measures against smoking than most politicians. Bent Høie of the Conservative Party, for example, told Aftenposten that he thinks it would be “completely wrong” to restrict tobacco sales in the evening. “That amounts to plaguing smokers,” he said.
Leading politicians for the Liberal Party and the Progress Party also voiced skepticism over the new anti-smoking proposals. “I don’t smoke myself, but there are clear limits as to how far we can go in laying down prohibitions,” said Per Arne Olsen of the Progress Party. The leader of the Liberals, Trine Skei Grande, agreed, saying she wouldn’t support a measure to ban smoking at outdoor bus stops or on train platforms.
Høie of the Conservatives noted that the strong support for tougher smoking bans “indicates smoking is on the way out.” The leaders of both the Conservative Party, Erna Solberg, and the Progress Party, Siv Jensen, however, have been long-time smokers.
The new proposed smoking bans have been fired up by an organization called Tobakksfritt (Tobacco-free), which is made up of Norway’s medical association (Legeforening), the nurses’ association (Sykepleierforbundet), athletics organization Idrettsforbundet, the Norwegian Cancer Association (Kreftforeningen) and the labour organization representing municipal and general employees, Fagforbundet. They have presented their proposals to the Health Ministry, with the goal of seeing them turned into laws.