Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I can see clearly now...

...the rain smoke has (almost) gone!

August 1, 2007 marks a milestone in Germany's snail-paced journey into the New Millenium on certain important issues.

Comprehensive anti-smoking laws came into effect today in Baden-Württemberg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), the state we live in. Because the federal government was unable (or unwilling) to enforce a nationwide ban right away, other states will gradually follow once they get their act together.

For Lower Saxony the ban means no smoking in restaurants or bars unless the proprietors have provided a designated smoking area which must be smaller than and sealed off from the main non-smoking area. Local government buildings, hospitals(!), schools(!) and other institutions for children and youth are required to be smoke-free from now on.

September will see a smoking ban in federal buildings, train stations, airports and on all forms of public transportation.

All this sounds really great, but let's face it, a law isn't much use unless it's enforced. Unfortunately restaurants and bars won't be subject to real police checks until November of this year. After that, fines of up to €1000 are possible for either smokers or restaurant/bar owners who disregard the ban. You can bet I'm going to be doing my own personal survey of which establishments care enough to stop the madness NOW. Other European countries have done it - you can too, Germany. Go on, give it a try. All you've got to lose is that smoker's cough.

Looks like it's going to be a bit hazy for a while longer, but I tell you, when that smoke finally clears for good we're all going to be able to breathe a little easier.



At August 02, 2007 2:55 a.m., Blogger illahee said...

at least it's a start, right? japan is slowly improving, but i'm still holding my breath...

At August 02, 2007 8:12 a.m., Anonymous ian said...

It's too bad the federal government didn't have the guts to stand up to the all-powerful tobacco lobby, so it's up to us on an individual basis.

I have a feeling the fight for the right to finally have clean air in this country is just beginning.

At August 02, 2007 9:46 a.m., Anonymous lilalia said...

A few years ago, early morning in Hamburg airport, I was accosted by an American just off an overnight international flight desperate to know "Where can I go and have a smoke?!". I looked at him and said, "You are now in smokers' paradise... you can smoke anywhere". The look of relief, the look of newly found bliss on his face made me laugh the rest of the day.

On a more serious note, I am living in such denial when I think of how much smoke I have breathed over the years in my office, restaurants, cafes, and flights (Lufthansa was the last to introduce non-smoking flights, before starboard side was smokers, port side was non-smokers).

At August 02, 2007 12:25 p.m., Blogger Jul said...

If Italy and Ireland can pull it off, any country can. Stop dragging your feet already, Germany (and Switzerland)!

We were in Ireland a couple weeks ago and it was soooooo nice to go out for a drink and breathe clean air each night.

At August 02, 2007 1:21 p.m., Blogger Maribeth said...

Oh, wonderful! Smoke free!!! I simply hate cigarette smoke!!!

At August 02, 2007 2:22 p.m., Blogger Ms Mac said...

I agree with Jul about Switzerland. It's amazing that so many Swiss are fit and active but still light up everywhere, even in the shops.

But anyway, every time a country announces a smoking ban I do a secret dance of joy. You know what they say, there's none so pure as the purified!


At August 02, 2007 5:10 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

A collective sigh of relief!! YAY! I totally share your excitement, Christina, as you know!!!

At August 03, 2007 12:54 a.m., Blogger Mike B said...

I love the signs in the Frankfurt airport telling me it isa smoke-free airport ... they're usually 20 meters away from one of the designated smoking areas throughout the terminals. Same at the Bahnhof. I'll believe it when I don't smell it.

At August 03, 2007 1:25 a.m., Blogger Julie said...

Good for you guys! I had a teacher once that was a chain smoker. The room smelled so bad lots of us developed coughs!

At August 04, 2007 3:36 p.m., Blogger Bek said...

The same problem is in Austria. They have some laws about it and put signs up, but people ignore it. Nobody seems to care.

At August 06, 2007 9:38 p.m., Blogger Wayfarer Scientista said...

First time here on your blog...

It seems to me that removing the ciggarette vending machines would help the situation. *shrug. Do update us on whether or not there really seems to be a difference!

At August 06, 2007 10:51 p.m., Blogger christina said...

illahee - Yep, better than nothing but it's going to take a while.

ian - They interviewed a few people in the paper in the first day of the ban and they said they were happy to stand outside and puff on their cancer sticks, but I'll be interested to see what happens come winter. Should be entertaining.

lilalia - Welcome to my blog! Oh yes, I well remember the days where the airlines would put us on non-smoking row 21 and the smoking section would start in row 22. How thoughtful!

jul - I know! And they've proven that it can work without people having to go out of business. Germany is just SO resistant to change and very wary of anything new.

maribeth - Well, almost smoke free. I do find it very unpleasant, especially when it threatens my health.

ms mac - Well, the Germans like to smoke while they're riding their bikes to the health food store!

ginnie - It's wonderful to finally see things moving in the right direction.

mike b - No idea how it is at the airport, but the Hannover train station has been smoke free for at least a year now and they really do enforce it. Amazing.

julie - Yeah, even the "after smell" can be awful. I hate that stale smoke odor.

bek - Once they start enforcing it and people really start complaining I think it will work. A nice poke in the pocket book can work wonders sometimes.

wayfarer scientista - Thanks for dropping by! Removing the machines would be much too logical and sensible, I'm afraid. For the government it's all about the tobacco lobby and the money - the health of its country's citizens be damned. :-)

At August 09, 2007 3:00 a.m., Blogger Lynda said...

Oh that is fantastic news - my last visit to Deutschland was marred by the smoking - no fun to be had in the kneipe anymore and a beautiful night in a wonderful restaurant turned horrid when all three tables around us lit up in unison just as our main meal was being served. Australia is fantastic now for non-smokers (Sydney) - no smoking in the pubs or restaurants.. makes life far sweeter smelling.


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