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Denmark: New Smoking Law Controversial

(Apr. 24, 2012) A new smoking law agreed to on April 21, 2012, in Denmark, will impose a ban on smoking in educational institutions designed for children and youths and in single-person offices. Staff members will be able to smoke on the grounds of schools only in their private quarters and only when no students are present; likewise youths who are enrolled in boarding schools and similar institutions can smoke only on the grounds or in their private rooms. Smoking will continue to be permitted in company cars, trucks, and other vehicles, when there is no other person present. (New Smoking Law Attacked from Both Sides, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Apr. 23, 2012).)

Other provisions of the law include increased fines for violating provisions on smoking and for selling tobacco to those under 18 years of age. First offenses will now result in a fine of 5,000 kroner (about US$888); the amount increases to 10,000 kroner for a second offense and 20,000 kroner for a third. (Id.)

The law also includes measures to increase support for smokers wanting to quit the habit, including 1.5 million kroner appropriated for the operation of the help line Stoplinien. (Id.) Stoplinien is a project of the Danish Health Protection Agency and includes a website and a phone line offering support to smokers wishing to quit. (About [machine translation] (last visited Apr. 23, 2012).)

The new legislation was criticized as being both too restrictive and too loose. Sophie Løhde, of the opposition political party Venstre, expressed the view that “the current smoking laws are perfectly adequate and that there are far more important things to debate. … Citizens can think for themselves and don't need detailed manuals from the government.” (New Smoking Law Attacked from Both Sides, supra.) Henrik Thulesen Dahl of the Dansk Folkeparti also spoke against the new law, calling the prohibition on smoking in single-person offices overly protective and counterproductive. “I actually think that the new smoking law will mean more people will become exposed to tobacco smoke as everyone files outside to smoke by the entrances to buildings,” he said, adding, “[t]hey become more visible and so may also inspire more people to smoke.” (Id.)

Taking the opposite point of view, the national cancer organization, Kræftens Bekæmpelse, argued that the law is not strict enough, given that the rate of smoking among young people has not declined recently. While approving the restrictions on smoking in schools, Leif Vesterfarrg Pedersen of that organization said they are “disappointed that smoke won't be completely removed.” (Id.)

Astrid Krag, Denmark's Minister of Health, responded to the criticisms of the law, stating:

Our deal focused on ensuring that children and youths are not exposed to the damaging effects of smoking. … We have a duty to help young people make the healthy choice and if we can keep them from starting to smoke then we have made an important step toward a healthier Denmark. (Id.)

The recent legislation appears to be the result of a compromise, as some government officials had wanted to go further toward a complete tobacco ban, while opponents decried the efforts to restrict smoking as “nannying.” (Peter Stanners, Creeping Legislation Threatens National Smoking Habit, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Feb. 17, 2012).)