A Surprise Reverse for Tobacco Control

Hat-tip Tony:

“Good news from Austria. ‘In health negotiations, the FPÖ insists on a repeal of smoking bans. “


Strache einigt sich mit Kurz
Koalitions-Deal: Aus für Rauchverbot
In den Gesundheitsverhandlungen beharrt FPÖ auf Rücknahme des Rauchverbots.

Some background:

Austria’s far-right looks set to be part of the country’s next government, with polls showing it on course to hold the balance of power ahead of elections this weekend.

The last time the Freedom Party (FPÖ) entered government in the year 2000 the EU’s other member states imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria in the hope of forcing the extremists out of power.

Now, polling in second place at around 25 per cent of the vote, the party is confident of returning to power as a kingmaker, and may be on the brink of matching its strongest showing ever.

The leader of the Austrian Freedom Party is Heinz-Christian Strache:

Heinz-Christian Strache (born 12 June 1969) is an Austrian right-wing politician, a member of parliament and former member of the Vienna city council, who has been Chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) since 2005. He is described as “the most experienced figure in frontline Austrian politics” and is credited with softening his party’s image and professionalising it.

Heinz-Christian Strache?

It seems that Strache did a deal with the current Austrian President, Alexander Van der Bellen. Die Tag Presse (Google translated):

Observers expected lengthy coalition negotiations, but now a surprising turn is emerging. Alexander van der Bellen may have started the new government early next week. This was leaked by the FPÖ and ÖVP after a meeting with the head of state.

After both parties recently agreed to lift the smoking ban in the restaurant again, invited the Federal President Sebastian Kurz and Heinz-Christian Strache to an urgent smoking break in the Hofburg.

There he expressed the desire to complete the government program as far as possible “over the weekend”. That could not be so difficult, so Van der Bellen, because the attitude to the smoking ban is anyway the only difference in the party programs…

The first critical reactions to Van der Bellens Schwenk were not long in coming. The opposition parties felt that the Federal President was trampling on non-smoker protection. The union pointed to the serious health consequences of tobacco use.

Alexander Van der Bellen:

Alexander Van der Bellen; born 18 January 1944) is an Austrian politician and economist who is the 12th and current President of Austria since 26 January 2017.

A member of the noble Russian Van der Bellen family of Dutch ancestry, he was born in Austria to aristocratic Russian and Estonian parents who were refugees from Stalinism, and became a naturalised Austrian citizen together with his parents in 1958. He was a professor of economics at the University of Vienna before he entered national politics. He served as a member of the Austrian National Council representing the Austrian Green Party from 1994 to 2012 and was both leader of the parliamentary faction and leader of his party from 1997 to 2008. He ran as a nominally independent candidate supported by the Green Party in the 2016 presidential election, and finished second out of six in the first round before winning the second round against Norbert Hofer, a member of the Freedom Party of Austria.

Sebastian Kurz:

Sebastian Kurz (born 27 August 1986) is an Austrian politician and chairman of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). Since 2014 he is Austria’s minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.

Austria doesn’t have much in the way of a smoking ban as yet, and a much tighter one was due to come into force in 2018:

Austria’s governing parties have agreed that a general ban on smoking in cafes and restaurants will not be imposed until May 2018.

The SPÖ and ÖVP announced at a press conference that a draft law will be sent for expert review on Friday.

The law proposes a bonus for cafes and restaurants which voluntarily ban smoking before the May 2018 deadline – the value of which will be related to previous costs in setting up smoking and non-smoking areas.

Previously, Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner (ÖVP) said the ban would come into force in summer 2015, but after much haggling the parties seem to have reached a compromise which gives businesses more time to adjust.

“The new smoking ban will be a historic contribution to improving people’s health,” Health Minister Sabine Oberhauser said on Friday.

“We have at last joined Europe in terms of protecting non-smokers,” she added.

According to a report in the Wiener Zeitung newspaper the general smoking ban will include e-cigarettes, which at present do not fall under the tobacco law and will therefore require a special paragraph.

From my readings this morning, it actually seems like several parties have done already done a deal to repeal the smoking ban that was due to come into force in 2018.

If so, it will be something of a first: the first time any political party anywhere has made the repeal of smoking bans a pivotal part of its platform. In the UK, under Nigel Farage, UKIP’s manifesto included a relaxation of the smoking ban to allow smoking rooms, but this was promptly dropped when he stepped down as leader.

Also, this looks like it will be an unexpected reversal of the fortunes of all-conquering Tobacco Control, and perhaps a straw in the wind for other political parties to court the smoker vote.

I brought all this to the attention of Brigitte in the Smoky Drinky Bar last night, and she was delighted at the development, and said she’d see if she could listen to an Austrian TV debate that is being held, and report on what was said.

About Frank Davis

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6 Responses to A Surprise Reverse for Tobacco Control

  1. Jack Ketch says:


    According to the Austrian late evening ‘quick’ news last night (“ÖVP/FPÖ: Kleine Schritte in
    Richtung Koalition”) apparently it ,the ‘controversial smoking ban’, [sic] wasn’t discussed at the top table so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  2. waltc says:

    “A member of the noble Russian Van der Bellen family of Dutch ancestry, he was born in Austria to aristocratic Russian and Estonian parents ” There goes the notion that only the “lower classes” smoke.

    • Walt, consider the poor United Kingdom who had to endure the “lower class” rulership of a smoking Queen Mother for 80 years or so until she passed away around age 100.

      – MJM, a smoker who’s hoping to meet death at the hands of a lower class jealous husband as he turns 97…

  3. Vinny Gracchus says:

    Hopefully this move to repeal smoking bans in Austria gains some traction.

  4. beobrigitte says:

    At this point in time there is nothing definite. Ploughed through a few articles I could find and asked an Austrian friend.

    My guess is that the anti-smokers are doing what they always do: beleaguer politicians until they cave in….
    Innkeepers and smokers cheer, cancer help & Co. outraged.
    Of course, resistance is already forming against these plans. In addition to the social insurance companies, the cancer aid also reports that reversing [the smoking ban] would be “medically irresponsible”.
    The representative of the Viennese coffee house owners, Wolfgang Binder, says: “We have a legal regulation that works for years. We should leave it at that. “

    I can only hope that the Austrians have the guts to send the anti-smokers to hell and reverse the smoking ban due to be enforced in May 2018.

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