Cigar Aficionado

German Court Overturns Smoking Ban

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that a controversial smoking ban law is unfair to smaller establishments and will need to be revised by the end of 2009 before it can be enforced.

The law, effective in 14 of the country's 16 states, banned smoking in public bars and restaurants unless an establishment could offer a separate smoking room.

Owners of eckkneipen, or small local pubs, were finding it impossible to compete with larger businesses that could gain exemption from the ban by providing the space for customers to smoke. These owners, as well as the 33 percent of Germans who smoke, view the justices' decision as a victory.

"I am satisfied all around," said Sylvia Thimm, owner of the bar Doors in Berlin, to The Telegraph of the United Kingdom after the ruling was passed down.

Thimm had lodged a complaint (30 were filed, in all) regarding the ban's constitutionality and hers one of three cases in which testimony before the court justices was requested.

Since three states adopted the smoking ban in August of last year, others have been following suit. Eight states adopted the legislation on January 1 and three more did so in July.

A survey by the German Association of Hotels and Restaurants shows the ban directly affected sales in bars and restaurants. One-fifth saw declines of 20 percent or more since the bans were introduced. One-room businesses took the worst hit as sales dropped an average of 31 percent.

One-room bar and restaurant owners hope the wording of the revised legislation will exempt their businesses from the smoking ban law. However, regions could choose to adopt a blanket smoking ban, which would eliminate smoking from all restaurants and bars, regardless of size.