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Smoking ban to be reinstated across cafes and bars of all sizes

The Dutch Parliament has voted to extend the smoking ban to all bars, restaurants and cafes, reversing a rule that excluded smaller outlets.

Ashtrays will once again be removed from cafes after Parliament voted to reinstate a total ban.The two governing parties were split on the issue, with the Liberals (VVD) voting to keep the exemption for small independent cafes.

But the VVD were outvoted after their coalition partners in Labour (PvdA) teamed up with five smaller parties to pass the change in the law, which was proposed by the Christian Union group.

The previous government, headed by current prime minister Mark Rutte, had relaxed the ban to permit smoking in cafes run solely by the owner and with a maximum size of 70 square metres.

Café owners had argued that the ban on smoking, first introduced in 2004, disproportionately hit their business by turning away customers who cherished the atmosphere of the old smoke-filled ‘bruin cafes’.

But politicians supporting the tighter rules argued that the dangers of passive smoking and the risks to young people’s health outweighed the concerns of small businesses.

Christian Union MP Carle Dik-Faber said: “I’m in favour of public health and I’m not indifferent to the dangerous consequences of passive smoking.

“We have a generation of young people growing up who are still exposed to passive smoke when they go out and may be tempted to take up smoking themselves.”

The catering industry organisation Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) said it was ‘concerned’ about the vote in the Lower House and denounced the policy as “inconsistent and ill-considered”.

“Business owners in the catering sector need to be able to rely on a trustworthy an reliable government,” said a spokesman. “Their investment and management of their business should not be subjected to the whims of politicians.”