Berlin to enforce smoking ban halfheartedly

Berlin is supposed to begin fining restaurant and bar patrons for smoking on July 1, but the city hasn't managed to mobilize adequate personnel for the task.

Berlin to enforce smoking ban halfheartedly
Carcinogens aren't cool. Photo: DPA

According to the local daily Berliner Morgenpost, only two of the city’s 12 districts – Spandau and Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf – have enough inspectors ready to sniff out rebel smokers.

During the six-month grace period following the January 1, 2008 implementation of Germany’s smoking ban, many Berlin bar owners have openly flouted the law. But Berlin’s intention to enforce fines of €100 for patrons and €1,000 for bar and restaurant owners beginning on Tuesday seems halfhearted at best.

“July 1,” mayor of Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood Heinz Buschkowsky told the Berliner Morgenpost, “is just a day after June 30.”

The city government had initially planned to create 185 new positions to enforce the butt ban, but the senate approved just 88 positions to be filled by current city employees.

“We haven’t yet filled a single one,” Buschkowsky told the paper, adding that Neukölln isn’t actually actively pursuing ban enforcement. He said the city would need to send an unrealistic number of four enforcement employees per bar to quell expected resistance to the ban.

Many restaurants have complained that the smoking ban has cost them business, but hotel and restaurant association Dehoga told the paper that the ban is socially accepted.

“We recommend that our members follow the law,” Dehoga head Thomas Lengfelder told the paper, “but the frustration is great.”

Some restaurant owners have their hopes set on an upcoming decision from Germany’s top court in Karlsruhe on a class action suit by restaurants against the ban.

“If the smoking ban remains as it is, then many restaurant and bar owners will take on sales losses that threaten their existence,” Lengfelder told the paper.