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Smoking Bans in Place

Article based on news reports (df)August 1, 2007

Other European countries have enforced nationwide bans against smoking. In Germany, the regional states decide where to light up, resulting in patchwork laws. Now three states have taken the no-smoking initiative.

Lighting up will only be permitted in designated areasImage: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb

Most of Germany's 16 regional states plan to implement smoking bans by January next year, but anti-smoking laws already went into effect in three states on Aug. 1. Starting in September, smoking will also be banned in federal buildings and on all modes of public transport as well as taxis, trains and airports.

In Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, smoking is now prohibited in all local government buildings, hospitals, schools and other institutions for children and youth.

In the first two states, where Hanover, Heidelberg and Stuttgart are located, smoking will still be permitted in restaurants and bars, but only in designated areas, whereas in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the anti-smoking laws will take effect in gastronomical establishments starting Jan. 1.

The states of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony -- where Frankfurt, Mainz and Dresden are located -- want to enforce anti-smoking rules before the end of the year.

Patchwork laws in different states

Restaurant and bar owners in Lower Saxony, who are responsible for enforcing the ban, will be subject to checks by the local police as of November, so even though the rule takes effect now, there will be no penalties for violating the law until then. Afterwards offenders could face fines of up to 1,000 euros ($1,365), and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania the fine could be as much as 10,000 euros.

Feinstaub in Diskotheken
Smoking rules in discos vary, depending on regionImage: AP

Rules in discotheques also vary. The southwestern state Baden-Württemberg will impose a comprehensive ban, whereas discos in the northern state Lower Saxony will permit smoking in a sealed off area.

Critics of the patchwork laws in the various states say that unlike other European countries, such as France, Italy and Britain, the lack of a comprehensive ban throughout Germany, sends the wrong signal.

Although Berlin has tried to introduce anti-smoking laws nationwide, it could only enforce the rules in federal buildings, since Germany's constitution gives its states considerable latitude in such matters.

In March, the federal government agreed on a framework with the 16 states on anti-smoking rules in public buildings, but each state would have to ratify its own laws.

Critics in favor of comprehensive smoking bans

Lothar Binding, a Social Democratic parliamentarian, told the Berlin daily newspaper Tageszeitung, "Health protection shouldn't be restricted to only a few states. A non-smoker in Stuttgart has the same right to clean air as one in Rostock," he added.

Furthermore, in Baden-Württemberg, it is up to individual schools to decide whether those teenagers who are no longer minors may smoke in sealed-off areas on school premises. "Health protection should not be age-related," said Binding, who campaigned for a comprehensive ban in the German parliament last year.

Others applauded the state initiatives. "It is a hopeful start that states where the smoking issue has been a smoking gun have become models for other states," said Martina Pötschke-Langer, head of Heidelberg's German Cancer Research Institute (DKFZ) in an interview with the Associated Press.

Rauchen in der Schule
"Health protection should not be aged related"Image: dpa

Owners favor laws

According to a survey by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), most barkeepers and restaurant owners favor the new laws. In the past two years, the number of restaurants, bars and inns with specially designated areas has nearly doubled, reflecting changing public attitudes.

Those in favor of voluntary restrictions comprise only 20 percent of proprietors and only 10 percent of those surveyed are against the introduction of any non-smoker protection laws at all.

A slight majority of Germans have also approved smoking bans and restrictions, according to a Forsa survey. Statistics from the German Health Ministry show that one-third of German adults are smokers, of which 140,000 die annually from their habit. In addition, more than 3,000 non-smoker deaths a year are attributed to the effects of passive inhalation.