Smokers keep on puffing, defy New Year ban in Germany

1st January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Smokers defiantly kept on puffing on their cigarettes in German pubs, despite a smoking ban that went into force in eight of the 16 states at midnight.

1 January 2008

Berlin (dpa) - Smokers defiantly kept on puffing on their cigarettes in German pubs Tuesday, despite a smoking ban that went into force in eight of the 16 states at midnight.

Feeling has run high against the ban in dim bars where the odour of decades-old smoke and beer has become part of the masonry and woodwork. Bar owners said it would take a while for patrons to adapt.

The fact that the ban came into force amid cheering for a Happy New Year made it that much harder to enforce.

"What was I supposed to do? Take away all ashtrays at 12 o'clock?" said Torsten Schulze, head of the restaurant in the Kieler Schloss, a venue in the port city of Kiel, which threw a New Year's Eve ball.

In Hamburg, where the ban also became law on Monday, officials said they would not be checking or fining on the first day.

In Lower Saxony state, one of three states where the ban was applied months ago, police said a 20-year-old man enraged by the rule brought down a beer bottle on the scalp of a pub owner, 52, on Sunday on a North Sea island.

Catering executives were gingerly applying the new rules as the day wore on.

At the Maritim Hotel in Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt state, chief executive Hartmut Korthaeuer said, "We let our guests smoke all night. But after breakfast we took away all the ashtrays."

Half of Germany applied the ban on January 1 in step with neighbouring France, and five remaining states aim to set up bans by summer.

The exact terms differ from state to state. Most allow premises to maintain separate bars for smokers.

In effect, the new rules only require a main smoke-free area in bars and restaurants.

While most city hotels have enough space to segregate smokers in separate bars, smaller premises, which cannot be partitioned will have to ask smokers to step outside.

The federal government has no authority over the catering trade, but egged the 16 states to agree among themselves on a coordinated smoking ban in the whole nation.

Bavaria has been the strictest of the eight starting with a ban on Tuesday. It has forbidden separate smoking bars, and smoking is also being prohibited in beer tents at the annual Oktoberfest and other public festivals.

Publicans are collecting funds to mount a legal challenge against the bans before Germany's federal constitutional court, alleging a breach of basic rights.

The federal government used its powers over transport to ban smoking from September 1, 2007 in taxis, on buses, on trains and in planes anywhere in Germany.

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