Hessen smoking ban goes in effect Monday
Hessen, the home of the Wiesbaden, Hanau and Darmstadt military communities, will be the third German state to ban smoking from most public places, starting Monday.
The ban will end smoking in bars and restaurants, as well as public buildings and transportation. Smoking rooms will be allowed if “they are small and the non-smoker’s protection is guaranteed,” said Martina Pötschke-Langer, director of the Cancer Prevention Unit at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. She has worked in favor of the bans.
Hessen’s ban follows that of Baden-Württemburg, where U.S. Army Europe headquarters, in Heidelberg, is located, and Lower Saxony; both states instituted similar bans beginning Aug. 1.
Hessen’s ban also follows a federal ban on smoking on most public transportation, including trains, buses, aircraft, ferries and taxis, as well as in federal buildings in Berlin, that took effect Sept. 1.
In Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, a less restrictive ban in hospitals, schools and public places has taken effect. Smoking will be banned in restaurants there next year.
The smoking bans reflect a growing trend in Europe started in 2004 by Ireland and, the next year, Italy. They were followed by Norway, Sweden and Scotland.
England followed suit in July with a ban in enclosed public spaces, including pubs.
But it was California that had the idea first, banning smoking in bars and restaurants in 1998. Controversial, then, many states have similar bans and cities also have enacted anti-smoking legislation.
Germany’s state-by-state approach, as opposed to that of other European countries, reflects the broad powers granted the 16 states by the federal constitution in the post-Nazi era.
But according to Der Spiegel, most of Germany’s 16 states are moving to ban smoking in public places by the end of the year. Violations are to be punished with fines, ranging from 5 euros (about $7) to 10,000 euros ($14,183), Der Spiegel said.
“Most of the states will become smoke-free on Jan. 1,” Pötschke-Langer said. There will be exceptions, however: Bavarian beer tents during Oktoberfest will remain smoke-filled venues. “It’s awful,” Pötschke-Langer said. “The air in an Oktoberfest tent is so awful.”
A majority of Germans approve of the bans, according to a survey that showed 55 percent in favor, according to Der Spiegel.
“It’s running well. We have absolutely no problems,” Potschke-Langer said. The German Health Ministry says that about one-third of the adult German population smokes.