Light up at Oktoberfest one last time

Visitors to Munich’s world-famous
Oktoberfest beer festival will soon be in for a nasty surprise if they decide
to spark up a smoke to go with that ale — starting next year, they could face a
hefty fine. The city’s fun-loving residents have voted in favour of a draconian
new smoking ban that applies throughout the south German state of Bavaria. And
the move has prompted calls for a new blanket ban on smoking across the whole
of the country.

In a referendum held on 4 July, 61
per cent of voters in Bavaria supported the ban. Under the new rules, from 1
August smoking will be prohibited in all bars, cafés and restaurants — and,
from 2011, in the beer tents at the popular Oktoberfest.

The new Bavarian law imposes the toughest
restrictions on smoking in Germany — and has left bar owners fuming. Some
Bavarian pubs and restaurants that have tolerated smoking up until now complain
that they’ll be hit hard by the new rules and could face bankruptcy.
“Small bars, especially country pubs, won’t survive and many bars and
restaurants will lose customers,” says Monika Poschenrieder, head of the
local hotel and restaurant association in the Bavarian spa town of Bad Tölz.
“Smokers should have the right to light up in a separate room instead of
being banished outside — that’s really tough in the cold winter,” she
says. The Bavarian hotel and restaurant association warns the smoking ban will
hurt profits, leading to a 30 per cent drop in turnover.

Following the vote in Bavaria,
politicians in Berlin have appealed for a nationwide smoking ban. “There’s
a complete mess of different contradictory smoking laws in Germany,” says
Karl Lauterbach, health spokesman for junior coalition partner the Social
Democratic Party. “If you want a smoking ban then you need to impose a
strict nationwide ban, like the ban in Bavaria, which has no exceptions,”
he says.

 As for the smokers who will flock to next
year’s Oktoberfest, they may not be allowed to light up, but at least they can
still look forward to donning their lederhosen.