A German court has ruled that an elderly man must move out of the apartment that he has lived in for four decades, after neighbors complained about his habit. The pensioner can appeal the ruling to a higher court.
The court in the western German city of Düsseldorf on Thursday ruled that 75-year-old Friedhelm Adolfs must comply with his landlady's eviction notice.
The Düsseldorf district court found that while smoking in a flat was not in and of itself reasonable grounds for eviction, Adolfs had failed to make an adequate effort to keep cigarette smoke from seeping into the hallway of his apartment block.
It also agreed with the landlord's lawyer, who argued that he had repeatedly refused to open his windows to air out the apartment or empty his ashtrays. The lawyer said the man had failed to do so even though his landlord had verbally warned him in 2012.
The court gave Adolfs until the end of this year to pack up and move out. However he could still appeal his case to Germany's top judicial body, the Federal Court of Justice.
The pensioner's year-long court battle has been followed closely by smokers and non-smokers alike in Germany. Some smokers have expressed fears that the case could be a first step towards trying to ban smoking in private homes.
Fears of a slippery slope
Shortly after the court handed down its ruling, the German Association of Renters issued a statement stressing that that the decision did not amount to a general ban for people smoking in their own homes.
"Smoking in an apartment is generally allowed and can not be forbidden," Lukas Siebenkotten, the director of the special interest group said. "Smoking is considered to be in accordance with (rental) contracts regarding the usage [of a flat], the Federal Court of Justice decided years ago," he added.
During the case, Adolfs was described by his lawyer as Germany's second most famous smoker after former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who is likely the last Germany celebrity to be allowed to light up during television interviews.
The pensioner has funded his legal battle through donations from other smokers.
Smoking is banned in most German bars and restaurants.
pfd/kms (dpa, AFP)