Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 14:30 UK

German court rejects smoking bans

Smoker in Munich
Rules for smokers vary across Germany's 16 states

Germany's top court has ruled against smoking bans in small bars and clubs.

The Federal Constitutional Court upheld complaints against the bans in the city-state of Berlin and Baden-Wuerttemberg, in south-west Germany.

The two states are among 12 that introduced such bans at the start of the year. The court says they must now review their anti-smoking laws.

Smoking will now be allowed in one-room bars and clubs smaller than 75 sq m (807 sq ft), where no food is served.

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

Presiding judge Hans-Juergen Papier made it clear that German states could introduce blanket smoking bans in all public spaces if they so wished.

The complaint was brought by the owners of two small bars in Tuebingen and Berlin, who argued that the smoking ban was harming their business. They also said that, unlike larger premises, they had no space to create a separate smoking room.

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.

Bavaria has a total ban on smoking in bars and beer tents. In Saarland, smoking is allowed in small bars and larger ones that provide a separate smoking room.

The other states ban smoking in one-room bars but allow it in establishments that provide a separate smoking room.

Germany has a nationwide ban on smoking in government buildings.

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