One of the German states that has dragged its feet the longest on a smoking ban in public places will enact as of Jan. 1, 2008, the country's strictest no-smoking law.
In Bavaria, where the ispo trade show takes places in the state capital of Munich, the parliament approved a prohibition for puffing tobacco in all bars, restaurants, beer tents (auf Wiedersehen smoking in Oktoberfest tents), dance halls and public buildings. The law is so strict that, in contrast to some others that allow smoking rooms in restaurants, there is no allowance for a smoking room or for a restaurant or bar to become a so-called club that could allow smoking.
In fact, all across Germany, one of the last bastions for smokers in Europe and a country that has fought the hardest against no-smoking rules, each of the 16 states will have some kind of no-smoking regulations sometime this year. Already, eight states do. Some of those that will go into effect this year won't be strongly enforced immediately. And a coalition of restaurant and bar owners have already filed suit on the last business day before Christmas challenging the new law as an assault on their businesses.
In 2004, Ireland was the first European country to pass a law prohibiting smoking in workplaces, including bars, pubs and restaurants. Other countries followed suit, including Italy, Norway, Malta, Finland, the United Kingdom, Italy and, also as of Jan. 1, France. In Germany, the federal government had left the decision up to individual states, which resulted in a patchwork of smoking and no smoking countrywide.
The limits are part of the European Union's public health plan initiated in 1985. In France and Germany, more than 200,000 people die each year from tobacco. About a quarter of Germans, or more than 20 million people, smoke, according to the federal drug commissioner's website. About 140,000 people there die each year from the habit. Germans bought 94.1 billion cigarettes in 2006, 34 percent less than in 2001, according to Euromonitor International Plc, a U.K.-based market research company. France has 14 million smokers, or 22 percent of its population. About 72,000 deaths there are linked to smoking annually.
"Maybe we're a bit stupid with our traditions," David Droulez, head of the French Friends of Pleasure and Taste Association in Paris, told Bloomberg news service, "but we have the right to be as such and I cannot stand the idea of a hygienic, clean, and sorry to say 'American style' society.''
SNEWS® View: We have found increasingly great pleasure from smoke-free dining and night-clubbing in restaurants and public places in some European countries during travels in the last year or two. Although the ispo show approved a smoking ban starting in 2006 -- albeit a not strongly enforced one -- attending the show in Munich still meant being forced to breathe smoke-filled air at special events, some show areas, and in restaurants and other city gathering spots. With a government law in place, the show may need to look at larger signs and better enforcement of the regulations, and attendees won't have to search for the few non-smoking eateries in town. We are ecstatic about the countrywide progress. If that's "American-style," we're quite happy to claim it. We believe tens of thousands of people who may not die because of it will be pretty happy too.