Bavarians force referendum on smoking ban | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.12.2009
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Bavarians force referendum on smoking ban

Supporters of an anti-smoking petition are celebrating after successfully forcing the state to hold a referendum on the issue next year. A powerful anti-smoking lobby wants a total ban to be reinstated.

Cigarette and beer

Bavaria is one stepping closer to a total smoking ban

The state of Bavaria is set to hold a referendum on its smoking ban some time in the new year after a petition calling for a revision of the current law got more than the number of signatures required by a considerable margin.

At the latest count, nearly 1.3 million people signed the petition, well over the 940,000, or 10 percent of the Bavarian electorate, needed to force a referendum. The petition was instigated by the Ecological Democratic Party, supported by the Bavarian branch of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Green party as well as other ecological and sports organizations.

Unlike other European countries Germany delegated the ruling on its smoking ban to the individual states. Almost all German states have opted to allow exceptions to the ban on smoking in certain restaurants and bars, after originally imposing a total ban.

Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann

Bavarian interior minister Herrmann says parliament will not voluntarily adopt the hard line.

In Bavaria, a more liberal version of the law came into effect on August 1 this year, allowing smoking in pubs smaller than 75 square meters, as well as in designated separate side rooms. Organizers of the petition and authors of the proposed referendum proposal would like to roll back both of these concessions.

Political points scored

The SPD is casting the success of the petition as a defeat for the Bavarian center-right ruling coalition of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democrat Party, but the head of the CSU group in parliament, Georg Schmid, welcomed the fact that the Bavarian people would have the final say.

All the same, Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann said the state parliament would not, of its own accord, adopt the referendum's proposal in its current radical form.

The pro-smoking lobby remains stubborn on the issue despite the current defeat. The Association for the Preservation of Bavarian Tavern Culture (VEBWK) said it was disappointed in the petition results.

VEBWK head Franz Bergmueller told local broadcaster Antenne Bayern, “A social division is looming,” reflecting the views of many die-hard smokers in Bavaria who see smoking as a right and a part of southern German culture.

Editor: Michael Lawton

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