The Netherlands is the first country to partially overturn its smoking ban.

By Natalie Wain

Smokers in the Netherlands will now be able to light-up again in over 2000 of the country"s small owner-operated bars or pubs.

The partial over-turning of the blanket ban, which was introduced in 2008, is a huge victory for for smokers" rights campaigners who had argued that the blanket ban was driving small bar owners out of business.

An incoming coalition government in the country has allowed the partial lifting of the ban for pubs which are less than 743.5 sq ft in size and which are staffed solely by the owner.
Light up: The Netherlands is the first country to partially overturn its smoking ban. Smokers in small bars and pubs will now be able to light up without fear of a fine

It is a major victory for anti-ban campaigners and the first relaxing of the controversial ban anywhere in Europe.

Meanwhile in Spain, smokers are up in arms after the announcement that a smoking ban in public places will come into effect in January 2011.

Prominent anti-ban campaigner Weil Maessen told The Sun: "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. Public health workers tell us smoking is bad for you. Well, the ban is very bad for your social and psychological health".

He added, "I hope that the same thing happens in the UK now".

Dutch health minister Edith Schippers promised that impromptu smoking checks by food and consumer safety inspectors would now be stopped.

"The new law will allow consumer choice. A sign will inform customers whether or not they are allowed to smoke on the premises," she said.

The government has also canceled 280 fines related to the ban.

Ireland was the first European country to introduce the ban in 2004 with the UK following with a blanket ban in 2007.

Labour had initially promised that pubs not serving food and private members" clubs would be exempt from the ban and many have complained bitterly about the effect to their business.

Earlier this week, it emerged that Trimdon Labour Club in Sedgefield, former Prime Minister Tony Blair"s constituency, is due to close for good, with the smoking ban being partly to blamed for a lack of custom.

But the smoking ban looks set to stay in the UK with no partial exemptions, for the time being at least.

The coalition has indicated that a review of the ban this autumn, promised by Labour, will not take place.

It had been feared that the ban would be extended even further to prohibit smoking in beer gardens and doorways.

Campaigners in favor of the ban point to research from the Department of Health suggesting that in the year after the ban, the number of heart attacks plummeted by 10 per cent.

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