BRUSSELS, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- The European Commission is examining a possible ban on smoking in all public places across the 27-member European Union, officials say.
Legislation seeking such a ban probably will not be introduced in the current commission, but EU Social Affairs Commission Vladimir Spidla is looking to begin debate on the issue, The European Observer reported Monday.
Currently, only a few EU member nations such as Britain, Ireland, France, Italy and Spain have instituted such smoking bans. But Spidla says the EU has a duty to protect workers across the continent, his spokeswoman told reporters in Brussels.
"(Spidla) would like to see a ban in all workplaces on smoking, for both health and safety reasons," Chantal Hughes said. "At this very early stage of discussion, we are planning to consult social partners on this issue, meaning employers and trade unions."
The EU says smoking is the single largest cause of avoidable death, accounting for more than 500,000 deaths per year among the EU bloc and more than 1 million deaths in Europe as a whole, the Observer reported.