Social Democrats push for national smoking ban

The push for a tough, national smoking ban in Germany has gained momentum with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) calling on Tuesday for all bars and restaurants to become smoke-free.

Social Democrats push for national smoking ban
Photo: DPA

Several SPD parliamentarians are planning a meeting on Thursday to rally cross-party support for a strict national ban – without exceptions – similar to that approved by referendum in the southern state of Bavaria on Sunday, daily Tagesspiegel reported.

While smoking bans are the responsibility of the states, the federal parliament could use workplace health and safety laws – arguing that pub and restaurant workers’ health needs to be protected – to enact a ban.

“I consider the regulation in Bavaria to be the only sensible course,” Social Democrats health spokesman Karl Lauterbauch told daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. “Either you want a smoking ban or you don’t. If you want it, then you should make the national ban like the Bavarian one – that is, without exceptions. It will happen in the medium term in any event – I’m confident of that.”

Opposition to a ban consisted “mainly of lobbyists” he said.

“And then you simply have to ask the question. For whom do you make policy: for the restaurant association or the majority of citizens?”

His remarks follow Bavaria’s clear referendum result on Sunday in which 61 percent of voters backed a complete smoking ban in pubs and restaurants – including Oktoberfest drinking tents and separate, closed-off smoking rooms.

Smoking bans have so far been left to the states, creating a patchwork of half-hearted bans, some of which – including Berlin’s – have been challenged in courts. Laws generally allow establishments to build separate, closed-off smoking areas.

But owners of small pubs who run the bar themselves and cannot afford to build closed-off smoking rooms have successfully argued in court that bans discriminate against them, which is a breach of the constitution.

Pub owners fear their business would plummet if drinkers cannot smoke inside.

Carola Reimann, a Social Democratic MP who heads the parliamentary health committee, told the Frankfurter Rundschau a national ban was needed to end the uncertainty and ensure fair competition between all pubs.

“The patchwork of unclear and unsatisfying individual laws has to end,” she said.

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