01/17/2008 05:31 PM

One Last Puff

Subverting the Smoking Ban in Germany

Germany may now have smoking bans in 11 of its 16 states, but that isn't keeping smokers from enjoying their habit. As well as straight civil disobedience, many bars and restaurants have come up with novel ways around the prohibition.

When eight of Germany's 16 federal states introduced a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants on Jan. 1, you might have thought that that would be an end to nicotine consumption in those places, as well as in the three states which brought in the ban last year. But that would be forgetting about the anti-authoritarian streak possessed by many Germans, not to mention the nation's talent for technical innovation.

In fact, many smokers in Germany are still managing to puff away in their favorite establishment, one way or another. As well as humdrum solutions such as separate smoking rooms or simply going outside, smokers can enjoy a cigarette in a smoking ski gondola in Munich or in a smoking van in Berlin. One restaurant in Goslar has even cut holes in the walls so patrons can technically smoke outside.

Other Germans have come up with the idea of forming a club. Like the bar in Hamburg called Parallelwelt ("Parallel World") which has transformed itself into a "smokers' association." Anyone who becomes a member -- for €6 -- can come in as usual and keep smoking.

And then there is a large contingent of smokers who are simply ignoring the ban. Some pub landlords are collecting signatures for petitions against the ban, while Berlin smokers know they are safe to puff away until June at least, when the authorities will begin to enforce the ban with fines.

However some smokers' rights advocates went just a tad too far in their efforts to promote their cause. An events agency in the state of Schleswig-Holstein recently caused controversy when it started selling T-shirts on its Web site featuring a Star of David and the word "Raucher" ("smoker"), in a reference to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Third Reich. The company quickly pulled the shirts from sale after protests from Germany's Central Council of Jews.



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