Over 90% of indoor smoking ban violations in Brussels cafés remain unpunished
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    Over 90% of indoor smoking ban violations in Brussels cafés remain unpunished

    Over nine out of ten reports are dismissed by the public prosecutor's office in Brussels. Credit: Pixabay

    In 91% of the cases in which cafés receive a fine for clients smoking inside, the reports are dismissed by the Brussels public prosector’s office.

    In 42% of the cafés in Brussels, clients are smoking inside despite the indoor smoking ban, according to figures collected by VRT NWS, which followed the FPS Public Health to 88 cafés in Brussels on Thursday night. However, if the fines are not paid, nothing will happen nine times out of ten, as the reports are dismissed by the public prosecutor’s office in Brussels, which is much more than in Flanders (52%) and Wallonia (51%).

    When the inspectors of the FPS Public Health detect a violation of the ban, both the smoker and the owner of the business in which the person is smoking get a €208 fine. If the fines are not paid, the file is sent to the public prosecutor’s office.

    The public prosecutor’s office can decide to send the file on to a judge, who can impose a fine up to €6,000, or even decide to close the business. However, the public prosecutor can also decide to do nothing, which happened in 91% of the cases in Brussels. When asked about these figures, the Brussels office said they did not communicate about their prosecution policy, reports VRT NWS.

    “After a while, people know that they will not have to pay their fines most of the time. When we introduced a smoking ban, we expected Justice to make sure it would be adhered to,” said Stefaan Van Hecke, a member of the Chamber, on Radio 1. “I understand that the public prosecutor’s office has a lot of work, but not doing anything about this is not an option,” he added.

    Minister for Justice, Koen Geens, has said that he will investigate whether it is possible to have the inspectors of the FPS Public Health be more strict themselves.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times