Bavarians force referendum on smoking ban next year..

December 4, 2009 - January 1, 2008 eight German states including Bavaria marked the New Year by introducing smoking bans in public places including restaurants and bars. In July 2009 smokers in Bavaria rejoiced as the state’s parliament loosened the regulations on a smoking ban instituted 18 months before. Then on Thursday, October 1, 2009 Germany’s high court in Karlsruhe ruled that Bavaria’s looser implementation of its smoking ban is constitutional.

German State of Bavaria - dark green..
Bavaria is one step closer to a total smoking ban. Supporters of an anti-smoking petition are celebrating after successfully forcing the state to hold a referendum on the issue next year. A powerful anti-smoking lobby wants a total ban to be reinstated. The petition calling for a revision of the current law got more than the number of signatures required by a considerable margin.

At the latest count, nearly 1.3 million people signed the petition, well over the 940,000, or 10 percent of the Bavarian electorate, needed to force a referendum. The petition was instigated by the Ecological Democratic Party, supported by the Bavarian branch of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Green party as well as other ecological and sports organizations.

Unlike other European countries Germany delegated the ruling on its smoking ban to the individual states. Almost all German states have opted to allow exceptions to the ban on smoking in certain restaurants and bars, after originally imposing a total ban.

In Bavaria, a more liberal version of the law came into effect on August 1 this year, allowing smoking in pubs smaller than 75 square meters, as well as in designated separate side rooms. Organizers of the petition and authors of the proposed referendum proposal would like to roll back both of these concessions.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) is casting the success of the petition as a defeat for the Bavarian center-right ruling coalition of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democrat Party, but the head of the CSU group in parliament, Georg Schmid, welcomed the fact that the Bavarian people would have the final say.

All the same, Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann said the state parliament would not, of its own accord, adopt the referendum's proposal in its current radical form.

The pro-smoking lobby remains stubborn on the issue despite the current defeat. The Association for the Preservation of Bavarian Tavern Culture (VEBWK) said it was disappointed in the petition results. VEBWK head Franz Bergmueller told local broadcaster Antenne Bayern, “A social division is looming,” reflecting the views of many die-hard smokers in Bavaria who see smoking as a right and a part of southern German culture.

Reference: Bavarians force referendum on smoking ban, Editor: Michael Lawton,, 12/3/2009.

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