Smoking in Austria – What’s the Real Story?

No Smoking Sign
Common around the world – but not so much in Austria

So you’ve heard there’s a ban on smoking in Austria – at least in public places. But you still walk into restaurants and bars filled with smoke. So what’s the story with smoking in Austria? What is allowed and what is not allowed?

I know that I was confused when I moved here. I am used to the total smoking bans which seem to exist in most other (Western) countries. My home country, Ireland, was the first to implement a total ban on smoking in public places. But since then many other countries have followed us. Even Italy and France have implemented bans. So why not Austria?

Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that about 33% of Austrians smoke – one of the highest rates in Europe. Maybe it’s because an OECD study found that 27% of 15 years olds in Austria smoke at least once a week. In fact, over 50% of men between 18 and 28 are smokers. Yahoo once called Austria a ‘smokers’ paradise’. But which is the chicken and which is the egg? Maybe the percentage of smokers is so high because the laws are tacitly encouraging smoking. When most of the world has given up on smoking, you could see the current laws encouragement. Maybe more people would give it up if there was a total ban. That’s what they found elsewhere.

The good news is that this will change in May 2018 when a total smoking ban in all public places comes into force. This will include E-Cigarettes.

In the meantime, what are the current laws on smoking in Austria?

  • You are not allowed to smoke in any enclosed public spaces – although there are certain exceptions for eating and drinking establishments.
    • Restaurants, bars and discos over 50m² (538 ft²) must be either non-smoking, or they have to introduce a separate smoking room.
    • Restaurants, bars and discos under 50m² (538 ft²) can decide for themselves whether they are smoking or non-smoking.
  • If no other employee in the same enclosed space objects, then you can smoke in the workplace.
  • Smoking is completely banned on trains and in train stations.

Having said all of that though – we all know that there’s plenty of places which ignore the laws. You could report it, but would it do any good?

Here are some links to some good English language articles on the subject.

BBC Report on Objection to the Smoking Ban coming in 2018

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