05/07/09 Dutch Legal Loophole

A legal loophole has allowed Dutch pub owners to get away with allowing smoking in their property. [1]

After receiving a 1200 euro fine and a closure of one month for letting patrons smoke in their bar, they challenged the decision.  It transpires that the Dutch smoking ban is quite unclear, hidden behind a veil of smoke if you like, and it states merely that employees must be protected from smoke and as such pubs run by its owners with no staff are free to choose whether smoking is permitted or not. This is close to democracy, all they need now is the realisation that employees can choose to work in a smoking-permitted environment or not.

The Dutch Asthma Foundation chose to display the full extent of their ignorance when the director Michael Rutgers said  “Only a full ban can protect the health of employees and customers”.  Apparently no one informed poor Mr. Rutgers that there are no employees, and the customers who are sensitive to second-hand smoke can walk to the next establishment that prohibits smoking. This is, of course, logic. Logic has been known to work wonders for societies over the course of millennia, but it has taken a back seat in recent times.

As proof of this statement, health minister Ab Klink, the man responsible for forcing draconian measures onto his public, has said he intends to keep the smoking ban in place and will change the law if necessary.  Of course he will, we wouldn’t want grown adults to be able to make their own decisions regarding their health now, would we?

The Dutch are not the only ones with a loophole. Indeed, the British law has its very own, and arguably one much better than the Dutch for it allows smoking to take place in pubs with employees.  Most of you will already be aware of the recent story of the landlady who opened a “research room” in her pub, which, according to our law, was exempt from the ban. In one week she saw profits treble – a wonderful piece of ammunition for when someone says pub closures have nothing to do with the ban.  As legal as this was, and being 100% excluded from the main part of the pub and therefore not in the slightest bit inconvenient to either staff or non-smoking customers, the breweries forced her to stop. I fail to see why; her profits went up three-fold, meaning more people entered the premises and bought drinks, the smokers and non-smokers were happy and the staff were unaffected.

Perhaps, though, we could/should all go to our pubs and inform them of this loophole.  If enough take part, our democracy can return.

[1] http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/court-crushes-smoking-ban-staffless-pubs

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