Minister’s taxpayer-funded smoking box causes a stink – UPDATED

Mette Gjerskov spent 34,000 kroner of public money to avoid having to smoke outside


The food, agriculture and fisheries minister, Mette Gjerskov, announced Monday evening that she had now decided to pay for a smoking booth she had installed in her office using taxpayer funds.

“It’s never been a question of whether I was trying to get out of paying for the smoking booth – it was strictly about solving a practical problem,” Gjerskov said in a statement.

“It’s important for me not to expose others to second-hand smoke, and it goes without saying that I abide by smoking laws. But I’ve heard the criticism and will pay for the smoking booth myself.”

ORIGINAL STORY – published on 19 Dec 2011 at 16:42:53

The food, agriculture and fisheries minister, Mette Gjerskov of the Socialdemokraterne (S), is under fire for her decision to install a smoking booth in her office. ItÂ’s not the unhealthy habit that is causing a rift, however, but the fact that 33,744 kroner of taxpayersÂ’ money went towards providing Gjerskov with her own private smoking area.

While criticism predictably came from SÂ’s political opponents, it also came from within the governmentÂ’s parties.

“When we have just introduced smoking bans in single-person offices, it seems peculiar that a minister must now have her own private smoking box,” said Jonas Dahl, the health spokesperson for the Socialistisk Folekparti (SF), according to Berlingske newspaper.

Even Gjerskov’s own party has spoken out against her decision, with S’s health spokesperson Sophie Hæstorp Andersen telling the newspaper that smoking rules for ministers should be tightened.

Explaining herself to Jyllands-Posten newspaper, Gjerskov said that it would be too inconvenient to go outside each time she was craving a smoke.

“I have an office on the fourth floor,” she said. “It’s a hell of a long way down the hall, and it isn’t really practical to go down to the street and up again between meetings.”

The newspaper asked Gjerskov how she could justify the smoking booth in light of the governmentÂ’s decision to raise excise taxes on cigarettes and ban smoking in single offices in Christiansborg.

“It’s the same rules here,” she responded. “I can’t smoke in my office, but I can smoke in a smoking booth.”

When asked why taxpayers should foot the bill for her booth, Gjerskov responded only by saying that she pays the excise tax on her cigarettes like everyone else and that “smoking booths cost [money]”.

Her explanations didn’t satisfy the opposition party Venstre (V), whose health spokesperson Sophie Løhde said Gjerskov’s use of nearly 34,000 kroner of public money was a sign of “arrogance” and a “strange way to behave and use taxpayers’ money”.

However, Berlingske reports that Løhde’s party leader, the former prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, used public money to install a smoking booth in his office. Despite both politicians’ use of public money on the exact same thing, Løhde responded by saying she thought the situations were not the same.