Austria's parliament that is voting its own dissolution and heading for early election in September, approved a law on Wednesday that will further discourage smoking in bars and restaurants.
The new law, which will come into force on January 1, 2009, will force all establishments of 80 square metres (861 square feet) or more to build separate smoking-rooms if they choose to serve smokers.
AdvertisementRestaurants and cafes of 50 square metres or less will be allowed to decide whether or not to allow smoking.
The authorities will decide if smoking spaces are feasible in any establishments that fall between the two categories (between 50 and 80 squaremetres).
Under a law that came into force in January, any place of 75 square metres or more had to provide a no-smoking area. But the measure was rarely enforced and often consisted of just a few tables in the middle of a room, with no-smoking signs.
Austria is one of the last countries in Europe that still allows smoking in public places.
The change will now also require smoking areas to bear signs warning of the risks of lighting up.
Youngsters and pregnant women will not be allowed to work in places where they might be exposed to smoke.
Employees will have the right under the so-called "collective contract", which determines working conditions for all Austrians, to claim severance pay if they quit their job due to exposure to smoke.
Restaurant and cafe owners could face fines of up to 10,000 euros (15,740 dollars) for failing to comply with the new legislation, while patrons may have to pay up to 1,000 euros.
Health Minister Andrea Kdolsky argued it was a way to get people to quit smoking.
The new law was approved by the ruling Social Democrats and conservative People's Party as well as the opposition Greens, but opposed by the two far-right parties in parliament.
Parliament approved its own dissolution Wednesday, two days after the ruling coalition called it quits following 18 months of bickering and little progress on reforms.
Early elections are now expected on September 28.