No Smoking Laws in Germany

The ban on smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, is now nationwide in Germany.

While it is up to the individual states to pass specific non-smoking laws the federal government has also done its part to reduce the number of places in which smoking is permitted through legislation. (One interesting part of the federal regulations is the ban on allowing minors to smoke in public. It is also against the law to sell tobacco products to minors. Cigarette machines in public areas have been fitted with a device that requires a user to insert either a German drivers license or a bank card in a slot before cigarettes can be purchased.)

The states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Thuringia were the last to impose the ban. The federal government doesn't have this authority, so the states had to pass the ban individually, and there are differences among them.

Bavaria is the toughest. You can't smoke indoors at any bar or restaurant there. In all states, even Bavaria, you usually can smoke outdoors; on terraces in beer gardens and sometimes even in tents. And in all states except Bavaria the proprietor can permit smoking in a separate room that is well sealed off from the main room.

Some places, of course, only have one room, and in Saxony, Rhineland-Pfalz and Saarland proprietors of such places have successfully sued to be exempt from the law. They claimed it threatened their existence. Smoking is permitted there in all places where the proprietor does all the serving. In Sachsen-Anhalt the proprietor can declare the main room the smoking room and send non-smokers to the sealed off other room.

Depending on the state the ban can apply also to other public buildings, such as schools, sport facilities, museums, airports and hospitals. Penalties for violating the law vary. In Saxony you can be fined up to €5000 while in Hamburg and Thuiringia the maximum is €500.

No Smoking Law Update

At the end of July 2008 the German Federal Constitutional Court upheld complaints against some parts of the smoking bans in the city-state of Berlin and Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Smoking will now be allowed in one-room bars and clubs smaller than 75 sq meters where no food is served.

The court gave Berlin and Baden-Wuerttemberg until the end of 2009 to draft new anti-smoking legislation.

The judge's ruling is seen as setting a legal precedent for Germany because most of the country's states have similar anti-smoking laws.

It is most likely that all of the German states will review their laws and perhaps make some modifications. But it is unlikely that the ban on smoking in many places will be lifted.

Here is a state-by-state summary of the laws

Germany wide

Since September 2007 smoking is prohibited in all federal government office buildings. This includes courthouses, the German Parliament and other federal buildings. Smoking is banned on public transportation as well. Smoking in train stations is allowed only in designated smoking areas. Fines for violations range from €5 to €1,000.

Baden-Württemberg

The smoking ban came into power here August 1, 2007. Here, you are permitted to smoke in restaurants with separate smoking rooms and in party tents. Don't light up in nightclubs and discotheques however. Adult age students and teachers are permitted to smoke in designated areas on school property. This includes vocational schools and colleges. Fines for individuals caught breaking the law can range from €40 to €150.

Bavaria (Bayern)

The smoking ban was started on January 1, 2008. It is the most comprehensive and severe of all the states'. There is no smoking allowed in adjoining, separated rooms and in party tents. (However, an exception has been made to allow smoking in the tents of the 2008 Oktoberfest.) Smoking is not allowed in any public building, school or hospital. Exceptions are made for private parties or clubs. Fines for violation range from €5 to 1,000 and the fines can be imposed on individuals and businesses.

Berlin

The smoking ban in public facilities including schools and hospitals started January 1, 2008. However, adjoining rooms can be exempt. Fines started being levied on July 1, 2008. Individuals can be fined up to €100 and businesses that break the law can be fined up to €1,000.

Brandenburg

Smoking was banned in January of 2008 in public places, schools and other educational facilities, hospitals, retirement and foster care homes. Smoking is permitted in restaurants, hotels and cultural facilities in adjoining rooms providing that these areas are completely separate. There is no smoking allowed in discos. Fines for individuals can range from €5 to €100 and businesses can expect fines ranging from €10 to €1,000.

Bremen

The smoking ban became affective in schools and hospitals in August 2007, and was extended to include restaurants, discos, party tents, hotels, the harbor front area and airports as of January 2008. Exceptions are made for traditional and special events. Separate smoking rooms are allowed in restaurants and discos that do not have a dance floor. Individuals can be fined up to €500 and businesses up to €2,500.

Hamburg

Smoking has been prohibited in all public facilities including hospitals, schools, restaurants and government offices in Hamburg since January 2008. Designated smoking sections are the rule here for restaurants, provided that the rooms have appropriate ventilation devices. Party tents for special events are excluded from the ban. Individuals can be fined anywhere from €20 to €200 and businesses from €50 to €500.

Hessen

Hessen is one of the forerunners of non-smoking laws, being enforced here as early as October of 2007 for restaurants and public facilities. Smoking is only permitted in Hessen in adjoining rooms provided that these are separate from non-smoking areas and the same condition applies for party tents for special events. Businesses may construct "separate" rooms without special construction permits until 2009. Individuals can be fined up to €200 and businesses up to €2,500.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Here the non-smoking ban took affect in August 2007. Of as January 1, 2008, smoking has also be banned in restaurants. However, the restaurants can opt to provide a separate adjoining room if they wish. The same rule applies to government offices, hospitals, colleges/universities, foster homes, airports and sports venues. Individuals can be fined up to €500 and businesses up to €10,000.

Niedersachsen

As of August 2007, the smoking ban became effective for restaurants, bars and discos; restricted here again to separate onsite rooms. In this state, smoking is prohibited in public facilities such as schools, hospitals and government offices.

Nordrhein-Westfalen

The New Year marked the implementation of the smoking ban, stretching to include restaurants on July 1, 2008. Restaurants may provide separate smoking areas if the premises have enough rooms to provide this sort of arrangement. Smoking is not allowed in schools and educational institutions and health facilities. Exceptions to the smoking ban here are party tents, special regional events such as Karneval and Schützenfeste and for special private parties and in bars. Fines range from €5 to €1,000.

Rheinland Pfalz

Here the smoking ban came into affect February 15, 2008. Hosts may designate separate (but smaller) rooms as smoking rooms. Small bars with only a main room and service only by the propieter may allow smoking. Students of legal age may smoke in separate rooms and in smoking zones. Individuals can be fined up to €500 and businesses up to €1,000.

Saarland

This tiny state makes the biggest exceptions for the general smoking ban in restaurants. In other words, smoking is allowed in small bars where the host/owner serves. In bigger restaurants however, separate rooms must be provided. In party tents the host/owner may authorize smoking. Smoking is prohibited in all public facilities including government offices, schools and hospitals as of February 15, 2008. Individuals can be fined up to €200 and businesses up to €1,000.

Sachsen

The smoking ban took effect in Saxony February 1, 2008, for public facilities. Smoking is allowed in bars if a separate room is provided. Discos are required to be smoke-free, violations here can be as high as € 5,000 Euro.

Sachsen-Anhalt

January 1, 2008, the smoking ban for public buildings and restaurants took effect. Separate smoking rooms are allowed in hotels and restaurants. Smoking is not allowed in discos. Individuals can be fined up to €500 and businesses up to €1,000.

Schleswig-Holstein

As of January 1, 2008, smoking was prohibited in public facilities. Restaurants are required to designate a separate smoking area. Individuals can be fined up to €400 and businesses up to €4,000.

Thüringen

In Thüringen the smoking ban began on July 1, 2008. Smoking is prohibited in pubs, discos, government offices, hospitals, schools and cultural facilities. However, restaurants may authorize smoking in a separate room. Individuals can be fined up to €50 and businesses up to €500.

An interactive map that describes (in German) the ban in each state is at: www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/gesundheitspolitik/nichtraucherschutz_aid_131374.html