Bavaria - state's parliament loosened regulation on smoking ban..

July 15, 2009 - Smokers in Bavaria rejoiced on Wednesday, July 15th as the state’s parliament loosened the regulations on a smoking ban instituted 18 months ago.

January 1, 2008 eight German states are marking the new year by introducing smoking bans in public places including restaurants and bars. The eight states, Berlin, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein will join Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemburg and Hessen in the crackdown on smokers' freedoms. Saxony, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia will impose their smoking restrictions within the next two months, while Thuringia is introducing its ban in July 2008. Typically for Germany, many states will have their own particular variations. For example, Bavaria intoduced the strictest curbs, enforcing a ban in beer tents as well as pubs and restaurants -- resulting in a smoke-free Oktoberfest in 2008. And many states won't enforce fines for breaking the rules until a few months have passed. (German States to Ring in 2008 with Smoking Ban, Spiegel Online International, 12/31/2007)

From August 1, smokers will be allowed to puff away in pubs smaller than 75 square metres. Restaurants and beer tents that create smoking sections in side rooms will also be open to tobacco lovers. The health ministry may also allow smoking at establishments that can insure limited second-hand smoke with special ventilations systems. Children will not be admitted into the smoking areas.

The legislation has been roundly criticised by anti-smoking advocates, but many voters in the state were in favour of dropping the ban.

“The vast majority of the smoking clubs showed us that the previous law would fail,” Health Minister Markus Söder told news agency DDP. A loophole in the ban created a wave of members-only smoking clubs, but the new law no longer allows these.

Söder said that the new law reflects reality and Bavaria’s “live and let live” attitude.

While smoking was banned in bars and restaurants in most German states starting January 1, 2008, it has been widely flouted. For example, many bars in Berlin set ashtrays on the tables after dark. And legal exceptions in many states have weakened the smoking ban.

Six months after the ban began, top courts ruled against the restrictions in Berlin and Baden-Württemberg, allowing smoking in bars smaller than 75 square metres (807 square feet) where no food is served.

Many German smokers also responded by starting grassroots groups and petitions to roll back the ban.

Reference: Bavaria to filter smoking ban, The Local Germany's News in English, 7/15/2009.

Related news brief: WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2008..; German sales rise in Germany amid moves to impose smoking ban..

Click on image to enlarge; Bavarian Coat-of_Arms..