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EHFG President Leiner: smoking should disappear from public life – Austrian solution is half-hearted

Date

08 Sep 2010

Sections

Health & Consumers

Program presentation of the 13th European Health Forum Gastein

Vienna/Bad Hofgastein, 30 June 2010 - “Given all that we know about the harm caused by active and passive smoking, one thing is clear: smoking should completely disappear from public life,” opined Prof. Dr. Günther Leiner, president of the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG), at the presentation of this year’s convention program. In the EU, 14 million people suffer from tobacco-associated diseases. As a consequence of nicotine, 650,000 die prematurely each year. Tobacco is thus the largest single cause of avoidable fatalities. Lung diseases are responsible for an estimated 100 million Euros in direct and indirect medical costs.

“I regret that Austria’s current regulations have only half-heartedly moved toward protecting non-smokers in restaurants and bars, allowing for separate smoking areas and free choice for establishments under a certain size, instead of banning smoking altogether as an ever growing number of other European countries do,” President Leiner said. And they are doing so with sustainable health policy success: in Ireland, England, Scotland, France, and Italy, the number of acute heart attacks already dropped by about 17 percent in the first year after the introduction of smoking bans. An analysis of 13 respective studies from Europe and North America showed a 36 percent decrease in heart attacks over three years. In Scotland a significant reduction in lung diseases was also detected.

The underrated epidemic of lung disease is one of the principal topics of the EHFG 2010, the EU’s largest health policy event taking place, for the 13th time, between the 6th and 9th of October in Austria’s Gastein Valley.

Professor Leiner: Austria’s half-hearted peculiar path is a lost opportunity

“It is regrettable that Austria -- with its July 1st effective gastronomical laws for the protection of non-smokers -- has gone its own half-hearted way instead of affiliating itself with Europe’s forerunners,” Dr. Leiner criticized. “That is not only lamentable from the standpoint of restaurant personnel and non-smoking guests, but it is also unsatisfactory to many restaurant owners – not least because of distorted competition and legal uncertainty. This is also evident in the fact that - as of yet - a considerable portion of restaurant owners have not undertaken the necessary steps to renovate their facilities.”

Europe non-smoker protection drives on, but Austria’s social partnership stance regrettable

At the European level, Professor Leiner welcomed the Council’s recommendation regarding smoke-free environments (2009) and the Commission’s planned 2011 measures for improved non-smoker protection by means of an additional

amendment to the Tobacco Directive: “A real disappointment is that this initiative pushes against the borders of EU authority, because health care is a national responsibility.” However, through the European jurisdiction in the area of protective labor laws, it could quite well result in EU regulation in the sense of comprehensive protection for nonsmokers.

President Leiner: “Unfortunately as things now appear, labour representatives at the EU level stand in incomprehensible opposition to better employee protection here, and employers also show little interest.”

13th EHFG 2010: Widely diversified topic line-up

About 20 government ministers and state secretaries from throughout the world are expected again at the EHFG, as in previous years. Key speakers at this year’s plenary session will be, among others, Austrian Minister of Health Alois Stöger, EU Commisioner John Dalli, WHO’s European Director Zsuszanna Jakab and futurologist Matthias Horx.

Among the highlighted topics this year: Future Health Trends; Active Aging, EU and Local Partnerships for Health; Health Competence and its Measurability; Health is Global: is Europe ready; Personalized Medicine; Investment in Tomorrow’s Healthcare Personnel; Reproductive Health; Rare Cancer Diseases; Financing the Healthcare System; Social Medicine and Pandemics.

EHFG Press Buro:

Dr. Birgit Kofler, B&K Media and Communications Consulting GmbH; E-Mail: Tel.: +43 (0) 1 319 43 78-13;

Mobile: +43 (0)676 636 89 30; kofler@bkkommunikation.com

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