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Smoking is down in the U.S. and smoking bans are up. Of course that's not to say that the decrease in smoking is distributed evenly or that everyone is happy about smoking bans. According to Slate, less than 13 percent of Americans smoke every day. However in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia, 40 percent of the population smokes on a regular basis.
When it comes to smoking in bars and restaurants, cities and states continue to fight a back and forth between those who want all-out smoking bans and those that believe there should be some places left to smoke.
Meanwhile, The Netherlands, a country that is often ahead of the curve on such matters, passed a smoking ban in 2008 and has already overturned it. Smokers' rights advocates successfully argued that the ban was unfair and was putting small bars out of business. Dutch smokers can now freely smoke in more than 2,000 small bars or pubs, as long as the venue complies with certain rules. For example, smoking bars must be under 743.5 square feet and be staffed solely by the owner.
According to the Daily Mail, the Netherlands is the first country in Europe to reverse a smoking ban. Weil Maessen, a smokers' rights advocate said: "This is great news for small bars and the common man. Lower-class people tend to drink in these places and they were being punished ... Small bars have an important social function."
The Netherlands has never been afraid to go its own way on social issues. The country already tolerates the sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as allowing prostitution. According to public health minister Edith Schippers, the reversal is a good thing, because it promotes freedom of choice, something that is important to the Dutch. "A sign will inform customers whether or not they are allowed to smoke on the premises,' Schippers said.
It will be interesting to see how the new rules play out for the Netherlands versus the current approach in the U.S. At the moment, the tide certainly seems to be in favor of expanding smoking bans in the U.S. as opposed to relaxing them.