Controversial Austrian government wants to abolish gastronomy smoking ban

Austrias health minister Beate Hartinger-Klein

Austrias health minister Beate Hartinger-Klein

After seven weeks of coalition negotiations the conservative Austrian People’s Party and the right populistic Freedom Party formed a government, with the 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz as Chancellor, in last years December. Since then, the government is very present in the local news perception addressing topics like migration, Europe and social justice. However, recently, the government caused a stir by cancelling the 2015 established smoking ban which is causing displeasure in whole Austria.

Immediately after forming the new government announcements like putting asylum seekers into barracks in suburban areas or cutting unemployment benefits were omnipresent in Austrian media. However, since the two parties presaged that they plan to overrule the old governments plans to make Austria’s gastronomy smoke free from may onwards, the people revolt by organizing demonstrations, boycotts and petitions.

Already 487.345 (Status: 06.03.2018, 20:45) signed the “Don’t smoke” petition. The organizers have time until 4th of April to gather as much signatures as possible before the official submission. It is one of the most successful gathering of support declarations in the history of the Austrian republic says medical association president Thomas Szekeres. Except for the governing parties, all other major political parties in Austria express their support for the petition.

Especially Mathias Strolz, Chairman of the NEOS party, gained a lot of consent for his speech in front of the Austrian parliament last week. “It is a decision between live and death” and “You deliberately accept dead citizens for political tactics” are two of many harsh accusations during his ten-minute speech. Strolz is especially targeting Austria’s new health minister, Beate Hartinger-Klein, whose arguments against smoke banning consist of claiming that Austrian restaurant owners have a long tradition of outstanding service which includes accepting “little weaknesses” as she refers to smoking. According to her the law would force restaurant owners to ostracize smokers and would make proper hospitality impossible. Furthermore, she accuses the former government of delaying the coming into the effect of the law on purpose, so it would come into operation during the current government.

“The repeal of the law is a step back. They try to distract from their election promises concerning social justice because they are not able to fulfill them” says Christian Derer., an Austrian student whose opinion represents a majority of the country like Marlene Suber.: “Apart the guests, it is an imposition for employees who usually can not choose where to work because of limited jobs. If a waitress finds out that she is pregnant she actually has to immediately stop working because of the smoke to protect her child even though she could keep working for a couple weeks or months.”

For now, the Austrians have to wait for the petition to end. Until then they have to hope for a scandal free government until 4th of April.