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Banning smoking could theoretically be an option if an alternative for addictive cigarettes would provide the same pleasure and glamour as cigarettes, if smoking rates are below 5% and if the country’s borders can be easily controlled. In November 2006, I visited Bhutan, the only country in the world that in December 2004 banned the sales of tobacco (but not yet smoking itself). For religious reasons, smoking prevalence in Bhutan was already very low. In addition, the country is almost isolated from the rest of the world—the perfect country for a smoking ban justified on health reasons. The ban resulted in a mixed picture. Tobacco products became more expensive and more difficult to obtain, but smoking also became trendier among youngsters (certainly in the discotheques) and smuggling is increasing. In the 27 countries of the European Union, we have almost open borders, smoking rates of around 20% to 35% and no real alternative for addictive cigarettes. A smoking ban for us at this time would be an enforcement nightmare.
Competing interests: None.