Dutch lawmakers oppose ban on smoking in coffee shops

Dutch Health Minister Ab Klink's plan to ban smoking in coffee shops across the country from next year faced fierce opposition on Wednesday from legislators and the hospitality industry.
A majority in the Dutch parliament thinks that smoking ban for the hospitality industry should not apply to coffee shops, where cannabis is sold, Radio Netherlands reported.

Edith Schippers, a lawmaker for the opposition conservative Liberals (VVD), said the proposal was 'rather absurd.' She added that it 'would be the same as banning alcohol in pubs.'
The governing Labor Party, as well as the opposition Socialists and Green Left Party, also oppose the plan. They said banning smoking in coffee shops would lead to a fundamental change to the country's soft drugs policy, which is unique in the world.

All drugs are forbidden under Dutch law. But coffee shops may sell cannabis under strict conditions and the use and possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use are allowed.
Green Left lawmaker Kees Vendrik on Wednesday called for an emergency debate in parliament on the issue. He said the Christian Democrats are trying to find a way to get rid of the coffee shops and end the Dutch policy on soft drugs.

'The idea is that you can buy the stuff at the coffee shop, and smoke it there. If that is no longer possible, it will be pushed back into the illegal circuit. That is precisely what we do not want,' Vendrik said.
Klink earlier said he wants to move forward a ban on smoking in cafes, restaurants, bars and night-clubs from 2011 to 2008.

A spokesperson for Klink said the minister will consult with the hospitality sector before making a decision by this summer.
Klink's plan was also opposed by Dutch business owners. Three cafe owners from Amsterdam and The Hague have jointly set up the Platform Hospitality Industry & Ventilation as part of their anti-smoking ban efforts.

Cafe owner and chairman of the Amsterdam hospitality industry association Paul Hermanides said Wednesday that together with two other colleagues, he wants to show the health minister that improved ventilation systems can guarantee that the air quality in cafes is clean enough.
The business owners fear a smoking ban will cause sharp fall in turnover. 'Turnover fell by 20 percent in the first year in countries where a smoking ban has been introduced,' Hermanides said.

Source: People's Daily