Germany′s Smoking Laws Face Court Challenge | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.12.2007

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Germany's Smoking Laws Face Court Challenge

With more of Germany's 16 states set to stub out smoking in restaurants in 2008, opponents have filed a challenge with Germany's constitutional court.

Cigarettes in an ashtray

Germany has been slow to pass anti-smoking legislation

A federation of Germany's hotel and restaurant owners filed a challenge with the country's constitutional court on Friday, Dec. 21, against the recently imposed restrictions on smoking in restaurants. The court in the southern German city of Karlsruhe will hear the case, which claims the smoking bans violate the rights of the hospitality industry.

The court case is seen as a last-ditch effort to halt increasingly stringent anti-smoking regulations which are being put into place in Germany, state by state.

Until recently, Germany was considered one of Europe's last bastions of smoke-filled restaurants. The tobacco lobby remains strong in Germany and as of 2006, the country is estimated to have some 16.7 million smokers.

Different regulations

Woman smokes in a restaurant

Some feel the bans are unfair to small restaurants

The regulations differ depending on the area. Some allow smoking only if a restaurant can provide separate rooms for smokers and non-smokers.

"Our suit is not meant as a challenge to the rights of non-smokers but as a bid to protect the rights of restaurant owners whose establishments consist of only one room and who will suffer economically as a result of this ban," the hospitality federation said in a statement.

But Germany has been moving towards stricter rules in line with other countries in Europe. In 2007, restaurants without separate smoking sections had to go smoke-free in Lower Saxony, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg. Other states will follow in 2008.

Oktoberfest's smoking masses

Crowd of people hold up mugs of beer at Oktoberfest

Where are their smokes?

Especially alarming to smokers is that the wealthy southern state of Bavaria plans to implement the tough tobacco restrictions.

Starting Jan. 1, 2008, the Bavarian law -- the toughest regulation of its kind ever to be enacted in Germany -- will not only prohibit smoking in public buildings, schools and hospitals, but will also outlaw smoking sections inside bars restaurants.

Even the world-famous October beer festival in Munich will technically have to go smoke-free. But Bavarian premier Günther Beckstein has promised that the smoking ban will not be enforced during the popular event.

The world's biggest beer festival, which dates back to 1810, is a money-spinner for Munich. It brings in about a billion euros ($1.4 billion) a year for the Bavarian capital. Beer sales at the festival were up 10 percent this year to 6.7 million liters (11.8 million pints).

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