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Public Health

Smoke-free environments

According to conservative estimates, over 79 000 adults, including 19 000 non-smokers, died in the EU in 2002 due to exposure to tobacco smoke at home (72 000) and in their workplace (7300).

A Eurobarometer survey(3 MB) of March 2009 found 84% of EU citizens in favour of smoke-free offices and other indoor workplaces, 79% in favour of smoke-free restaurants, and 61% supporting smoke-free bars and pubs.

Protecting EU citizens from second-hand tobacco smoke

The 2009 Council Recommendation strengthened smoke-free legislation within public spaces, as well as EU cooperation on tobacco control.

According to the implementation report of 2013, 17 EU countries had comprehensive smoke-free legislation in place. Among these, Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria, Malta, Spain and Hungary have the strictest smoke-free provisions with a complete ban on smoking in enclosed public places, on public transport and in workplaces, with only limited exceptions allowed.

Status on the various smoke-free regulations in the EU

In February 2013 the Commission published a report summarising the state of implementation of the Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments of 2009. The report finds that:

  • All EU countries have adopted measures to protect citizens against exposure to tobacco smoke, but the national measures differ considerably in extent and scope
  • Complex legislation (i.e. legislation with exemptions) is found to be particularly difficult to enforce in some EU countries, making enforcement a problem
  • The actual exposure rates for EU citizens dropped from 2009 to 2012 (e.g. for citizens visiting bars and pubs the exposure rate dropped from 46% to 28% and for citizens visiting restaurants this rate dropped from 31% to 14%)
  • Belgium, Spain and Poland are examples of countries where the adoption of comprehensive legislation led to very significant drops in tobacco smoke exposure within short time period
  • The health effects of smoke-free legislation are immediate and include a reduction in the incidence of heart attacks and improvements in respiratory health, while the economic effect of smoke-free legislation is positive or neutral

The actual exposure rates for EU-citizens visiting drinking or eating establishments is also assessed in the context of the Eurobarometer. According to the latest figures (2017) actual exposure rates dropped further to 20% (bars and pubs) and to 9% (restaurants).

View the report on various smoke-free regulations in the EU as:

Council Recommendation

The Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments was adopted as the result of consultation and legislative process, on 30 November 2009, calling on EU countries to act in three main areas:

  • Adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport, within three years of the adoption of the Recommendation
  • Enhance smoke-free laws with supporting measures such as protecting children, encouraging efforts to give up tobacco use and pictorial warnings on tobacco packages
  • Strengthen cooperation at EU level by setting up a network of national focal points for tobacco control

Revision of the Council Recommendation

A call for evidence was launched on the Have Your Say webpage and was open to feedback from 22 June - 20 July 2022.

Targeted consultations have been launched in March 2023 to a sample of Member State representatives and stakeholders from civil society organisations, tobacco industry, hospitality sector, consumer and trade organisations, and educational, sports and cultural entities.

The outcomes of the targeted consultations will feed into the revised Council Recommendation on Smoke-Free Environments.

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