I don’t like sitting in a smoky restaurant or pub and intensely dislike having smoking in my house. So you might think I’d be upset at the “smoker’s victory” being reported by the local and international press. The constitutional court has ruled that the law in some German states, prohibiting smoking in one-room establishments, is illegal. This is seen as a victory for smokers. Wrong. The court has posed restrictions on when smoking will be allowed in the bars in the interim period, and has given the government less than two years to get their act together and publish a workable law.
The problem with the existing law is that small bars and restaurants are disadvantaged compared to larger establishments which can set aside a separate “smoker’s room” so long as they also have a non-smoking part too. So the little guys have been loosing business to the bigger places.
The court has explicitly said that a complete ban on smoking is fine – it protects people’s health and is in line with EU law.
I’m optimistic that after the next national election in 2009, a blanket ban will be passed – it’s the only way the government can conform with EU law and the court ruling. It’ll be have to be some of the fastest legislation ever passed here, however – the court has set a deadline for the end of 2009 and the election is likely to be held in September 2009. The government is unlikely to push new legislation through before the election because we have one of the highest proportions of smokers in Germany (34%) of any country in the EU (and because anti-smoking campaigns are associated historically with the Nazi movement), and there is a strong smoking-lobby in Germany.