Voters in the southern German state of Bavaria on Sunday voted for Germany's strongest smoking ban, meaning lighting up in bars, restaurants and beer tents at Munich's famous Oktoberfest will be "verboten."
In Bavaria, cigarettes and beer often go hand in hand
Bavaria became the first German state on Sunday to endorse a total smoking ban following a referendum putting an end to smoking in all public buildings.
Over three million voters participated in the southern German state's sixth referendum, with 61 percent voting in favor of the ban, according to the director of state elections.
The citizens' initiative "for real protection of non-smokers" will impose a total smoking ban on all clubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and beer tents.
The Muenchner Merkur newspaper on Sunday called the vote a "landmark and surprisingly clear" decision. "Few German citizens had trusted the Bavarians, often ridiculed as provincial, to show such decisiveness," the paper said.
The referendum was prompted by a heated debate in Bavaria, pitting bar owners and restaurant associations against anti-smoking campaigners.
The Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavaria's governing party, had introduced Germany's strongest smoking ban at the beginning of 2008. But the rules were relaxed a few months later, when the CSU formed a state coalition with the Free Democrats.
Bavaria's Premier Seehofer gave up smoking at his wife's request
Smoking is currently tolerated in small pubs and side-rooms of taverns, as well as in the Oktoberfest's famed beer tents.
The initiative to restore the original ban was backed by the Green Party and the Social Democrats. The new legislation mandates that smoking will be outlawed in all public buildings beginning August 1. The rules will also apply to the Oktoberfest, but officials have said that the ban will not be enforced there this year.
Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer told daily tabloid Bild preceding the referendum that his ruling CSU party could live with either possible result of the referendum.
Seehofer told the newspaper that he himself had given up social smoking at his wife's request.
Author: David Levitz (AFP/apn/dpa)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar