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European edition, Sunday, August 5, 2007

STUTTGART, Germany — James Hayden was hanging out Thursday night at Litfass, a popular Stuttgart club, when people started moving. Not to the music, but outside.

“The whole club would move to the outside and have a smoke,” Hayden said. “Very weird to see that here.”

The smoke-free bandwagon rolled into Germany last week when three of its 16 federal states enacted laws to limit indoor smoking. In Baden-Württemberg — which includes Mannheim, Heidelberg and Stuttgart — smoking is now prohibited inside bars, discos and restaurants.

The law is like a breath of fresh air to many.

“I’m into sports so I don’t like smoke anyway,” said Hayden, who works at Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Child and Youth Services. “I don’t want to leave a club smelling like three packs of Newports.”

Baden-Württemberg and two northern states — Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania — enacted the laws and are expected to be followed by Germany’s remaining 13 states by year’s end.

Even some smokers are welcoming the law.

“I’m trying to quit but it’s hard when you go downtown,” said Meredith Morse, an education counselor in Stuttgart. “It’s great that they make it so you can’t smoke inside because it will limit that trigger.

“[Germany] is like a smoker’s heaven because you can smoke everywhere.”

Not any more.

Some clubs frequented by Americans have already adjusted.

“We have some smoking areas outside, so inside the club it’s strictly forbidden,” said Guy Dechamdol, owner of the Schwimmbad open-air disco in Heidelberg. “In the winter, we will have a back balcony with open air and have (heating) to make it warm.”

The summer weather is helping some adapt.

Kathryn Learwood, manager of Murphy’s Law in Mannheim, said her club will need to build or enlarge a separate, sealed-off room for smoking in the winter.

“We have a big beer garden so at the moment it’s perfect,” Learwood said. “People say they have a lot more fun. It’s actually fun to go outside, and it’s a good way to pick up women — ‘Hey, got a light?’ It’s quite social.”

While clubs with open-air options are set for now, the trusty smoke-filled haunts and their patrons will have to cope.

Sgt. Erik Hamza, a nonsmoking New Yorker, said that when a similar law passed in 2003 in his state, the fog simply moved outdoors.

“It almost made it a nuisance on the sidewalks, impeding traffic,” said Hamza, of 554th Military Police Company. “You had the choice of not going to the bar or walking through a plume of smoke to get inside.”

Ireland, Italy and Great Britain went smoke-free; France is next and Germany, state by state, is coming along. “Europe is now going smoke-free, country by country,” said Martina Pötschke-Langer, head of Heidelberg’s German Cancer Research Institute. “It is not a question, only a question of when it will be realized.”

For nonsmokers such as Pvt. Daniel Cukryznski, it’s about time the tables were turned. Smokers’ rights? Wrong.

“Unless they’re lazy and just don’t want to step outside for a few seconds,” said Cukryznski, also of 554th MP Company. “They should be more considerate of those who don’t smoke.”

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