German state officials took steps last week to restrict smoking in restaurants and bars, a move met with a positive response from some U.S. personnel stationed at an Army base there.

Personnel questioned at Grafenwöhr last week unanimously supported the off-post anti-smoking measures.

Staff Sgt. Edward Perez, a nonsmoker, said he couldn’t wait for smoking restrictions to take effect.

“It will be better for me,” he said. “Smoking is a way of life over here. Everybody smokes. They think people are strange if they don’t smoke.”

The leaders of Germany’s federal states agreed last week to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, but agreed to exempt those with special rooms and authorize exemptions for other establishments entirely. Discos, schools and retirement homes will also come within the proposed ban.

Individual states, not the federal government, have jurisdiction over bars and restaurants, and each will draft its own legislation.

Critics say the agreement will cause chaos, as each individual state determines its own rules. But Lower Saxony’s governor Christian Wulff says 90 percent of the nonsmoking rules will be standardized.

“This is the largest step ever introduced in Germany toward the protection against passive smoking. Following endless and often useless debates, state parliaments are now making the decisions,” he said.

The proposed measures fall short of bans in other European nations, such as Italy and Ireland, which in 2004 barred smoking in all workplaces, including pubs and restaurants. They come just months after an attempt by the government to impose a nationwide ban collapsed on constitutional grounds.

At Grafenwöhr, John Santy, a Joint Multinational Training Command civilian technician and a nonsmoker, said he’d likely spend more time in German restaurants if smoking were banned there.

“I don’t know how many times I have not gone to restaurants because they are full of smoke,” he said.

JMTC system administrator Kris Sharon, a smoker, said he was not bothered by moves to ban smoking in public places.

“I’m not one of those people who will sit in a restaurant for a long time. The only time I would smoke is when I’m waiting for my meal so it is not a big deal for me,” he said.

Smoking is prohibited in all Department of Defense facilities. Onpost bars and restaurants within U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr are already smoke-free, according to staff at the base Tower Inn restaurant.

Sharon said he expects more restrictive rules about smoking elsewhere are on the way.

“Eventually there will be nowhere you can smoke. There are already places in the States where you can’t smoke on a public street,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now