Germany constitutional court overturns state smoking bans

  • Germany
  • 07/30/2008
  • Mike Rosen-Molina - Jurist

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court Wednesday ruled that state laws banning smoking in bars are unconstitutional as they now stand. Smoking in public places is regulated on a state-by-state basis in Germany, and most states allow bars to designate a separate room for smokers. The court found that such laws unconstitutionally discriminate against one-room bars, and that smoking must either be banned in bars entirely or the law rewritten to create exemptions for smaller businesses.

In 2006, the federal government of Germany rejected a proposed nationwide ban on smoking in restaurants out of concern that it would intrude on police powers guaranteed to the states in the wake of federalism reforms approved that summer. Under the new constitutional reforms, Germany’s 16 states have the power to regulate restaurants and businesses. Elsewhere in Europe, legislatures of England and France have approved nationwide smoking bans in public places. In the US, voters in three states approved state-wide smoking bans in the 2006 November elections, while Rhode Island amended its smoking ban after a state judge struck down several provisions of the law as irrational and therefore unconstitutional in 2005.