Member of the Riigikogu and former Minister of the Health and Labor, Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democrats) said banning people from smoking on balconies would increase smoking inside apartments. In that case, the smoke would seep to other apartments through the ventilation and its impact on people's health can be even more significant.
The National Institute for Health Development's (TAI) director Annika Veimer announced recently that smoking on balconies and out of windows is clearly regulated in other countries and Estonia should do the same.
Lithuania also decided to ban smoking on balconies from next year when even one resident is against it. With the amendment, smoking at outside sports facilities, bus stops, children's playgrounds and outside cafes is also prohibited.
Ossinovki said the subject was also on the table when he was the Health Minister.
"Generally, one of the forms of living together, which causes conflicts, is apartment associations where people's expectations for each other are different and the mechanisms to solve conflicts don't work. People start to turn to the police, ministries, etc. instead of solving the issues by negotiating," Ossinovski said.
Regarding smoking, Ossinovski noted that this issue was also considered during the period of tightening up the tobacco law, but health experts said there are two downsides to prohibiting smoking on balconies: firstly, no one can really control it, and secondly, people start smoking inside their apartments.
"Because in a lot of apartment buildings, the ventilation is not modern, this tobacco smoke starts to seep through the ventilation into other apartments and its impct on other people's health may be even more negative," Ossinovski noted.
Ossionvski said the choices should be smoking outside, away from people or giving up smoking altogether. However, these options are not the most likely and this should be taken into account when making decisions.
"If we hope that because of this [regulation], everybody will go for a walk and smoke outside apartment buildings somewhere further away, then this may be the case for some people, but it may not always be the case and the negative consequences should be taken into account if people start smoking indoors. Do you imagine that on a cold autumn evening, someone on the ninth floor would bother to go out to smoke - there are definitely people like that, but you can guess it is probably not everyone," Ossinovski said.
He said it must be considered where the rights of smokers end and where the damage to other people's health begins.
Ossinovski also gave the example that when indoor smoking in restaurants was banned, it was said that this could not be done because no one would go to bars anymore.
"In fact, nothing happened, smokers moved out to where they could smoke. There are certainly times when it is not a convenient decision, but it is undoubtedly necessary for society as a whole," he said.
Editor: Roberta Vaino