Copenhagen suburb bans smoking during even unpaid lunch breaks

A municipality in Copenhagen has banned all employees from smoking during working hours -- even if they are on an unpaid lunch break, in their own clothes and off council property.

Copenhagen suburb bans smoking during even unpaid lunch breaks
Ishøj municipality is bringing in a tough new workplace smoking policy. Photo: Linda Kastrup / Ritzau Scanpix
From August 1, Ishøj Municipality will impose Denmark's strictest employee smoking ban, with any council employee discovered smoking during work hours threatened with “employment consequences”. 
“We want to be a smoke-free municipality, and when we had to decide how to do it, it was the position of the City Council that there should be no exceptions” the suburb's Social Democrat mayor Ole Bjørstorp told the broadcaster TV2
“It was a very clear decision. Ishøj Municipality must be smoke-free, and this applies throughout the working day, from the morning until the afternoon.” 
Thomas Enghausen, the Vice President of the FOA union, told The Local that the union planned to file a case against the municipality if any of its members are penalised for smoking during an unpaid lunch break. 
“This has gone too far. The Mayor can't dictate what the employees are doing in their self-paid lunch break,” he told The Local. “This is free time. You have 30 minutes of free time during your working day.” 
Enghausen said that perhaps 200 of his union's members in Ishøj were not paid for their lunch break, most of them cleaners, janitors or in other technical positions, which he believed meant the municipality could not impose such a ban on them. 
“They've gone way too far according to the collective agreements right now,” he said. 
Henrik Wolsing Jensen, a janitor at Ishøj school and local union representative, told TV2 that he would fight the ban.
“If the municipality wants to be in control of what I do during my lunch break, then they can just pay me for it,” he said. “If I pay for my break, then it's my own time.” 
The municipalities of Nordfyn, Mariagerfjord and Viborg are also imposing smoking bans on their employees from August 1, but none extends into employees' free time. 

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Danish government to increase price of cigarettes

Denmark’s government says it should be more expensive to buy cigarettes in the Scandinavian country and has proposed raising the price of a packet to 50 kroner (6.70 euros).

Danish government to increase price of cigarettes
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

The price hike from the current 40 kroner will take place in two stages, with a 5 krone increase in both 2020 and 2021, according to Danish media reports.

Several parties in the country’s parliament have expressed their desire to raise cigarette prices, but social and health minister Magnus Heunicke said he was concerned about the social impact of a steep increase.

“We can’t have different prices in Denmark. For young people, that is a lot of money, so we think this is the right level,” the minister said to the Danmark media.

The price raise is part of a wider range of proposals to be presented by the government aimed at reducing the number of young people who smoke. Other elements include neutral packaging and a ban on displaying cigarettes in stores.

Heunicke also called for stricter application of the law preventing cigarette sales to under 18s and harsher fines for illegal sales.

Opposition health spokesperson Sophie Løhde of the Liberal party said the increase proposed by the Social Democrat government did not go far enough.

“I’m very disappointed. The health minister seems to think he’s the tax minister and that revenues [from taxing tobacco sales, ed.] are more important than the goal of making young people and children smoke-free,” Løhde said.

The Liberals recently called for a price increase to 60 kroner per packet of cigarettes.

Løhde also said there may be enough support amongst other parties for a parliamentary majority to get behind a higher price increase, even without government support.

READ ALSO: A packet of cigarettes could soon cost 50 percent more in Denmark