With broad support from the medical community, the anti-smoking initiative “Do Not Smoke” was brought before the health committee of Parliament Tuesday, February 26. Led by Chamber of Physicians president Thomas Szekers with Paul Sevelda, head of the Austrian charity Cancer Support, the initiative to make Austrian bars and restaurants smoke-free received some 900,000 signatures in a referendum in December 2018 – up from 500,000 the previous March. The coalition of the center right People’s Party (ÖVP) and far right Freedom Party (FPÖ) denied the initiative in defense of consumer choice and the businesses who expect to be negatively affected. According to a report by the OECD Austria is the only member state with an increase in smoking. Although experts claim 14,000 Austrians die yearly of tobacco related disease, some coalition MPs questioned the data, with the FPÖs Peter Wurm quoting Winston Churchill, “I only trust those statistics that I falsified myself.” Supporter of the ban, SPÖ’s Pamela Rendi-Wagner, insisted non-smoker protection cannot be subject to “political bartering” and a second hearing on the matter is set for April.
“Do Not Smoke”
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