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Iceland Introduces Smoking Ban in Bars and Restaurants

REYKJAVIK, Iceland on Friday introduced a total ban on smoking in public places amid protests from bar and restaurant owners who feel the prohibition is too severe and poorly executed.

'The authorities didn't give us any opportunities to create a smoking area outside bars and restaurants so most people have to resort to smoking on the pavement,' Arnar Thor Gislason, owner of a popular Reykjavik bar and restaurant, told AFP.

Due to everchanging Icelandic weather conditions and a fairly chilly climate even in summer, many bar owners have set up gas heaters on pavements and some restaurants will be lending blankets to customers. Most venues have increased their staff of doormen and bouncers because of the expected increase in the number of guests going in and out to smoke.

'Bar owners are of course afraid that the resulting queues and number of people outside nighttime venues will cause noise and possibly violence in the city streets,' Gislason said. Some 24 percent of Icelanders smoke, the most recent figures available from 2005 show. According to the Public Health Institute of Iceland, people smoking in bars or restaurants will not be fined. However, if employees of a bar or restaurant complain about smoking guests to the health authorities, a bar or restaurant will get a warning, and then daily fines until the problem is resolved.

Another Nordic country, Finland, also introduced a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants on Friday.


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