Germany shelves plans for strict smoking ban

8th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

8 December 2006, Berlin (dpa) - The German government has shelved plans for a nationwide ban on smoking in restaurants because of concerns it may breach the country's constitution, officials confirmed Friday. The cabinet will instead approve a ban on smoking in federal ministries and agencies in a watered down version of a proposal agreed by a government working group a week ago, a health ministry spokesman said. In its meeting next Wednesday, the cabinet is expected to urge Germany's federal states to imp

8 December 2006

Berlin (dpa) - The German government has shelved plans for a nationwide ban on smoking in restaurants because of concerns it may breach the country's constitution, officials confirmed Friday.

The cabinet will instead approve a ban on smoking in federal ministries and agencies in a watered down version of a proposal agreed by a government working group a week ago, a health ministry spokesman said.

In its meeting next Wednesday, the cabinet is expected to urge Germany's federal states to implement measures curtailing smoking in schools, hospitals, restaurants and day-care centres.

Regulation of restaurants and other facilities falls under the states' jurisdiction, following a constitutional reform approved in July to modernize the country's ageing federal system.

Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said Chancellor Angela Merkel would talk to the leaders of the 16 federal states on the same day as the cabinet meeting in a bid to seek a common approach.

"What we see here is nothing short of a declaration of bankruptcy to the tobacco lobby," said Karl Lauterbach, a health expert and member of parliament for the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Opposition Greens spokeswoman Renate Kunast accused the government of failing to look after the interests of workers who she said would suffer if smoking is not outlawed in restaurants and pubs.

*quote1*"The Irish are still able to drink Guinness all night long and sing cheerful songs even though you are not allowed to smoke there," Kunast said in reference to the smoking ban introduced by Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's government in 2004.

Germany is Europe's biggest tobacco market with about 22 million smokers, or 27 per cent of the population, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

So far it has has resisted calls from the European Union that would bring it into line with other countries which have introduced anti-smoking legislation.

Ireland, Finland, Italy, Spain, Malta and Sweden as well as Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand and several states in the US already have total or partial smoking bans in pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas and other public places.

In England, a smoking ban was approved by parliament in February and is expected to come into force in July 2007. Similar legislation is planned for France and Belgium.

On December 1, a working group of Germany's ruling coalition parties recommended a smoking ban for public transport and public buildings, including schools, hospitals, government offices and nightclubs, but not bars and pubs. Restaurants would have to provide no-smoking areas, according to the proposal.

But within days of the agreement, senior Christian Democrat and Social Democrat officials in the working group were asking the government to study whether a nationwide smoking ban would survive challenge in the courts from tobacco users.

Rupert Scholz, a Berlin constitutional lawyer and former minister, warned that the federal government could not for example regulate how people behaved in the offices of state or local governments.

The Interior and Justice ministries also expressed reservations, dismissing the view by health experts that the smoking ban was a federal issue because it was meant to protect the population from potentially lethal diseases such as lung cancer.

DPA

Subject: German news

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