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Pori Jazz festivalgoers bemused by tiny designated "smoking pens"

A micro-sized smoking enclosure provided by Pori Jazz organisers should have been enough to get diehard smokers fuming, but the arrangements evoked more hilarity than ire at the event.

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A designated smoking enclosure at Pori Jazz 2017. Image: Heli Mansikka / Yle

Legislation introduced in Finland in 2010 limits the use of tobacco products at public events. Smoking in front of stages or in tents is now forbidden at music festivals, for example.

Pori Jazz, a popular music festival that has taken place western Finland since 1966 may have taken things to the extreme, however, as pictures of the fenced-in designated smoking areas in use there this year have surfaced.

The size of the pen is so small that there is barely room for more than a dozen people to stand.

City officials' idea?

Festival production manager Petteri Karri told Yle that the city of Pori's health officials required the smoking area to be separated from the area where drinks are served and enjoyed.

"Pori insisted the smoking areas be set up in that location. Security is supposed to monitor smoking on the festival grounds, but they've also got many other things to do," says Karri.

Karri says he would rather talk about "cordoned areas" than "pens".

"They are intended to relay a strong signal: this is the place where smoking is allowed. Enforcing this is impossible in practice, especially if they are drinking alcohol," he says.

He has organised similar events throughout the country, but he says he has never run into this situation: where designated smoking areas are cordoned off in an outdoor space. Officials usually ensure that no smoking is taking place in the prohibited places near the stage or tents, but no other city has gone this far in its smoking restriction enforcement.

Valvira: Event organisers the best judges

Pori's municipal officials have responded by saying that they did not demand that enclosures or fences be set up, only that the designated smoking areas be clearly marked.

Guidelines from the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, known as Valvira, say that Finland's Tobacco Act bans smoking at public events in tents, audience areas and other spaces where people linger to follow the performance or activities.

The latter rule can also apply to open spaces where people spend longer periods of time. Valvira says event planners are the best judges of which outdoor spaces should be included in the guidelines.

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