While Europe has mostly followed the lead of the United States on prohibiting smoking in public places, Germany seems to be bucking the trend:
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe announced that it had found regional smoking bans in the German states of Berlin and Baden-Württemberg to be unconstitutional. The court ruled Wednesday that by allowing large establishments to maintain separate smoking areas, the bans discriminated against small one-room locales like the Eckkneipen, as corner bars are known here.
As a result, patrons in bars smaller than 75 square meters, or about 800 square feet, in the two states could immediately light up for a celebratory smoke.
Overturning the smoking ban has been a cause célèbre for some German bloggers, who consider prohibiting smoking in public areas as a form of totalitarian fascism. One blogger connects smoking with the short but hopeful history of middle-class culture and democracy (untrennbar verknüpft ist mit der kurzen und so hoffnungsvollen Geschichte der bürgerlichen Kultur und Demokratie). Those who would impose such a ban are "Gesundheitsfaschisten" - Health Fascists. Forgive me if I do not share their righteous indignation. Having lost family members to cancer induced by smoking, I support the ban on smoking in all public areas. If someone wants to destroy their health in private, thats okay; but don't put the well-being of others at risk. Lifting this ban - even if it's just for a short period of time - will result in more cases of disease and more deaths in Germany. Workplaces are much better, dining out is much more pleasant with the smoking bans in place. And fewer people are smoking because of the increasing inconvenience:
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the adult smoking rate in Massachusetts reached a record low 16.4 percent in 2007, the fourth-lowest figure nationwide. There was a 7.9 percent drop in the number of adult smokers in the state from 2006 to 2007, also a record.
Health officials yesterday trumpeted the figures, lauding Gov. Deval Patrick and the legislature for several developments on the front, among them a recent smoke-free workplace ban and a tobacco tax jump
Still, the legacy of the tobacco culture will plague us for many years to come:
Roughly 9,000 people die every year in Massachusetts from smoking-related illnesses, and costs associated with care for those suffering run around $4 billion annually, Auerbach said.