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Most Germans want restaurant smoking ban, poll shows

A majority of Germans favor a smoking ban in restaurants, a poll showed, giving backing to lawmakers seeking to push through anti-smoking legislation that would bring Germany into line with other European nations.

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 a poll conducted February 19 by market researcher TSN Emnid for N24 television. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government on February 14 agreed on watered-down proposals for a smoking ban in some government buildings after more stringent measures were deemed by legal experts to fall foul of German law. State leaders meet tomorrow to discuss anti-smoking measures for regional legislation. „There should be a general smoking ban everywhere that people eat, and also where children are present with their parents,” Health Minister Ulla Schmidt told the Rheinischer Merkur newspaper yesterday. Schmidt's case is strengthened by poll, which found that 61% of those who rejected a ban would be in favor if smoking were allowed in separate rooms. Nine% would welcome a ban if it was enforced in bars and discos and 4% said they would approve if one could smoke after 9 p.m., according to the poll, which had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

The government failed to implement a nationwide smoking ban last year amid legal opinion that more sweeping measures already agreed on by national lawmakers may be unconstitutional because they'd infringe the right of states to legislate. It instead approved a ban for federal-government buildings such as ministries, train stations, job centers and public transport. A smoking ban in restaurants, bars, schools and other public places now lies in the hands of the country's 16 state leaders. Yet it remains unclear whether they will agree on joint steps as requested by Schmidt and others. The Dehoga association of restaurant owners has failed to live up to its pledge to introduce non-smoking sections in 60% of all restaurants by the end of this month, the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said yesterday in an advance copy of an article in today's edition, without citing anybody. Official figures will be published February 26, the newspaper said. A joint working group has proposed a ban in public buildings and restaurants that would allow smokers to light up only in completely separate rooms. Still, the Agricultural Minister of Lower Saxony, Walter Hirche, has already said that his state won't ban smoking in pubs and small cafes. Monika Stolz, social affairs minister in Baden-Wuerttemberg, isn't very hopeful. „It is not very likely that we will have a joint model draft that all states will use as a basis for their legislation,” Stolz told the newspaper Die Welt yesterday, adding that she expects a list of options in its place. (Bloomberg)