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Germany misses non-smoking target, law necessary

Restaurants in Germany, Europe's biggest tobacco market, aren't setting aside enough non-smoking areas, making legislation necessary, a government study found.

Germany's DEHOGA Hotel and Catering Association voluntarily agreed in 2005 to expand the space set-aside for non-smokers in the country's 240,000 restaurants and cafes to avert legislation. Just one in three of nearly 2,000 restaurants surveyed by the IFAV consumer research institute offers smoke-free seating, while 11% set aside non-smoking areas and signposted them as agreed, the study found.
Under the plan, 60% of all catering establishments must be 40% non-smoking by March 1. „The voluntary path has failed,” Sabine Baetzing, the government's drug commissioner, said today in a statement on her Web site. „Our study clearly shows that protection for non-smokers can't be achieved without legislation.” Germany's federal government and the country's 16 states plan legislation to stop smoking in public places and restaurants.
The Berlin government will approve on February 28 a bill to ban smoking in federal buildings such as ministries, train stations and on public transport. The state premiers will meet on March 22 to discuss a proposal for state legislation to end smoking in restaurants, schools, museums, discotheques and other places.
A nationwide ban that would have brought Germany closer to outlawing smoking in public places failed last year amid legal opinion that more sweeping measures agreed by national lawmakers may be unconstitutional as they would infringe the states' right to legislate. Today's survey of 1,927 found that the caterers didn't even meet the voluntary target of 30% smoke-free areas in 30% of restaurants by March last year.
Under the accord, 90% of restaurants must make half of their tables smoke free by 2008. The agreement doesn't apply to businesses that only offer snacks such as sausages, kebabs, meatballs or sandwiches, or that have no tables and chairs. „We now urgently need clear and precise rules after the experiment of self commitment failed,” Edda Mueller, the executive director of the Federation of Consumer Organizations, said in a statement. She called on all state prime ministers to agree to smoking bans.
The states proposed on February 23 to allow smokers to light up in separate rooms and Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia said they will review whether owners of bars and cafes can decide themselves whether they will allow smoking in their facilities. A majority of Germans favor a smoking ban in restaurants, a poll by market researcher TSN Emnid for N24 television found yesterday. 61% of 1,000 people surveyed said they would like to see smoking forbidden in general in restaurants, while 35% were against a ban, according to the poll conducted February 19. (Bloomberg)