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Poland starts public smoking ban

Poland's ban on smoking in public places has gone into effect, despite worries it may be too harsh.

The ban calls for fines of up to 500 zlotys (£102) for those who break the regulations. But it allows for a special room to be set aside for smokers as long as it is well ventilated.

The move follows in the footsteps of many countries that have clamped down on smoking in public places. However it has provoked a discussion on whether it does not go too far in limiting civic freedoms in a country where lighting up was a lifestyle under communism, before 1990.

Smoking is now banned in schools, museums, theatres, airports and railway and bus stations and in public transport, stadiums, hospitals and playgrounds. It is also banned in one-room restaurants and bars.

Ryszard Kalisz, of the Democratic Left Alliance party, who recently quit smoking, said the ban was too broad and suggested it should be checked to see if it violates the country's constitution.

Some people already are saying they will decide where they go according to whether they can smoke.

"Before I leave home, I will call a cafe or a restaurant to check if they have a smoker's room," said Katarzyna Niegos, a 43-year-old teacher. "If not, I will find another place."

But Katarzyna Szyszko, 35, owner of the small Kawka cafe, said she did not fear a loss of customers, even though her business has no room for smokers.

"Old customers have vowed to come anyway for our company and for the ambience of the place and they have said they are ready to go out for a smoke," she said.

"Even some smokers are pleased with the ban because they don't like their clothes permeated with smoke," she said.

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