Smoking In Public Places - Smoking Ban for Germany

TIGHTER RESTRICTIONS. Still, Germany as a whole has remained surprisingly tolerant of cigarettes, even as other European countries including Ireland, Spain, and Italy moved in recent years to ban smoking in public places. Indeed, despite its nature-loving, outdoorsy image, Germany today has the highest smoking rate among major European countries: nearly 34% of the adult population lights up, according to figures from the World Health Organization. By contrast, only 24% of adults smoke in Italy.

Back in 1998, German lawmakers, fearful of voter backlash, defeated proposed legislation that would have effectively banned smoking from the workplace and most public places. But now many of those same politicians are calling for tighter restrictions, including Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Horst Seehofer, who opposed a ban in 1998. Even the Chancellor herself, Angela Merkel, has weighed in on the issue, saying through a spokesman that she is "open to the issue of protecting non-smokers."

TAKE IT OUTSIDE. The public appears ready. Opinion polls from TNS Infratest show that three-quarters of Germans now back a public smoking ban, and nearly 60% favor banning tobacco advertising. As if to punctuate the shifting mood, the June 12 cover of influential news weekly Der Spiegel carried a picture of a woman's mouth with a broken cigarette dangling from her lips and the headline Smoking: The End of Tolerance.

Now, antismoking advocates are preparing a new bill that aims to make Germany's restaurants, bars, and other public buildings smoke-free as early as 2007. For the moment, the nonsmoking lobby appears headed for victory.

Germany's federalist system makes it difficult to enact certain kinds of national legislation—and i...

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...smoking bans complain sales are down sharply. The problem is less severe for restaurants, which often enjoy increased business from nonsmokers, than for bars and other places where patrons go primarily to drink.

Even so, some restaurant owners in Germany are coming around to preferring government action—if only to establish clear rules. "It would be a good thing and would have no impact on my business," says Luciano Pane, 33, owner of Papa Pane, a trendy Italian restaurant in central Berlin frequented by German actors and film executives. "It works in Italy so why shouldn't it work in Germany?"

For a big, proud country accustomed to being more of a leader than a laggard, that could be a tough idea to accept. But Germany seems finally to be moving toward the rest of Europe in tackling the smoking issue. That should be good news for hearts, lungs, and bottom lines

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