New laws similar to those which took effect in England last summer, will ban the smoking of tobacco - but not cannabis - in enclosed public places in the Netherlands from July 1. Critics say the change will encourage users to turn to much stronger forms of the drug. Users will still be able to light up joints filled with pure cannabis but technically banned from mixing in tobacco.
The owners of the country's "coffee shops", where cannabis is available over the counter, campaigned for an exception.
But the Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende was quoted last week as explaining: "Coffee shops will be treated in the same manner as other catering businesses. "It would have been wrong to move towards a smoke-free catering industry and then make an exception for coffee shops. People would not have understood that."
Some cafes have built separate areas for those who chose not to inhale pure cannabis in the same way as pubs and restaurants in Britain set up outdoor smoking sections in the run-up to the ban in this country.
Many Amsterdam cafe owners fear being driven out of business. But Mark Jacobsen of BCD, a cafe traders' association, told the German newspaper Der Spiegel: "If an official comes into a coffee shop and sees someone smoking a joint, he must confiscate it and send it to a lab to test whether it contains tobacco.
"It is such an arduous procedure that it is going to create numerous problems".
"I don't think they will apply it very strictly during the first year."
Source: Daily Telegraph, 17/06/2008