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 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 passive smoking

Currently, 17 EU countries have comprehensive smoke-free laws in place. Among these, Ireland, the UK, 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. National measures differ considerably in extent and scope. The strictest measures were introduced by Ireland, the UK, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta and Spain.
  • Enforcement seems to be a problem in some Member States. Complex legislation (i.e. legislation with exemptions) is found to be particularly difficult to enforce.
  • 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%.
  • 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. The economic effect of smoke-free legislation is positive or neutral.

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 Member States to act in three main fronts:

  • 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.

Press releases

Related documents

Key documents on smoke-free environments