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Laws and regulations are essential to provide protection against involuntary smoking, as voluntary arrangements have proved to be insufficient.1 Despite the apparent consensus on this basic statement, many western countries are still lacking a systematic and coherent set of regulations on smoking in public places to reduce involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke. Furthermore, there are considerable differences between countries regarding the degree of acceptation and commitment to existing laws. Yet sometimes we seem to forget that regulations are never an end in themselves, but instruments at the service of strategic objectives. To be effective, laws have to be achievable, compliance (and violation) must be recognised, and when appropriate, there must be consequences for those who fail to keep the rules. Too often norms and regulations are seen as simple solutions to complex problems, often ending in large and complex legislative processes that, without education and enforcement, are meaningless.
When regulations are designed to change behaviours like smoking, the role of education is crucial to …