Monday, October 1, 2007
No smoking in Berlin?
Germany has always lagged behind many other countries as far as "protection" of non-smokers goes. Despite the fact that less than 40% of the population are smokers, you get the impression the right to smoke is anchored in Germany's constitution, and anyone wanting to move about in public without getting blasted by rather smelly nicotine has been forced to go out of their way to find fresh air.
Things have improved over the last few years, especially regarding smoking in the workplace. However, places such as restaurants and cafés have traditionally been very reluctant to offer their customers anything more than a token no-smoking area, often just a couple of tables on the way to the toilets with no protection from all those lovely carciogenic fumes. Attitudes have been changing however, and since about 2006 there's been a lively public debate about the introduction of a general ban on smoking.
In typical German style though, it turned out it wasn't legally possible for the Federal Government to institute a general nationwide smoking ban, so each Land has had to introduce its own law, with inevitable regional variations (for example Bavaria has insisted on continuing to allow smoking in beer tents at the Oktoberfest).
The Federal Governement has managed to introduce smoking bans in the areas it does have direct influence on, mainly buildings of the Federal Government, and transport, so smoking is now banned on all forms of public transport including trains and taxis.
In Berlin, the "Non-Smokers' Protection Law" (Nichtraucherschutzgesetz) will come into force on January 1, 2008. The main effect will be to generally ban smoking in cafés, restaurants, bars and even discos - except where a completely separate room is available, which may be designated as a smoking room. Just how well this law will be enforced remains to be seen: the city's boroughs don't have enough resources to do more than symbolic spot checks, and there's still an attitude among the city's smokers that they have the right to pollute everyone else's air when they want... However, in advance of the smoking ban, many cafés and restaurants have voluntarily become smoke-free.
Disclaimer: the Penguin is a non-smoker and while he wouldn't want to deprive anyone of their "pleasure", he'd be very grateful if smokers would finally be forced to stink up the air in strictly controlled environment, so those of us who don't like having our clothes, drinks, meals etc. smothered in a blanket of tarry nicotine fumes can enjoy ourselves.
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