Stubbed Out German States Impose Smoking Ban
Three German states are implementing bans on smoking in public places this week and others are expected to act before year's end. It's part of an anti-smoking trend that is spreading across Europe.
Shisha waterpipe bars are becoming increasingly popular across Germany, particularly among young people -- but they too will be affected by the new smoking bans.
The first three laws go into effect on Aug. 1 in Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
The scope of the laws will differ in each state. In Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg, smoking will be banned in restaurants, bars, hospitals, schools and local authority buildings, while in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania the ban will only be effective in the latter three kinds of institutions -- a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars will only come in at the start of 2008.
Proprietors of bars and restaurants in Lower Saxony, who are responsible for making sure that the ban is observed, have a breather before the ban really kicks in -- smoking checks by the local authority will only start in November. Afterwards offenders could face fines of between 5 and 1,000. Fines in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania could reach 10,000.
In March, Germany's states hammered out a framework agreement with the federal government in Berlin on introducing a smoking ban in public places. Each state has to ratify the law in its legistlature. The rest of Germany's federal states are likely to introduce smoking bans in the coming months or at the start of next year.
In introducing bans, Germany is joining a wave of fresh, smoke-free air which is blowing across Europe. Among the countries to have introduced smoking bans in public places are Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, and most recently Finland and England, which introduced bans on June 1 and July 1 respectively.
The smoking ban has been met with cautious approval by Germans. According to a Forsa survey for the television station RTL, 55 percent of those surveyed supported a smoking ban. Figures from the German Health Ministry show that over 20 million Germans smoke -- around one-third of the adult population. Around 140,000 smokers die in Germany every year as a result of their habit, while 3,300 non-smokers die annually from the effects of passive smoking.