Wednesday, January 2, 2008
One of the few consistently unpleasant aspects of our stay in Munich was the persistence of smoking in public places. Our otherwise enlightened European friends, however wary they may be of launching wars or tinkering with the genetic code of vegetables, somehow remain tolerant or even enthusiastic about filling the immediate atmosphere with tobacco-based carginogens.
More than a few of our otherwise excellent meals in Munich's fine restaurants were marred by billowing clouds of airborne toxicity. The presence of an infant at a nearby table rarely caused anyone to hesitate to light up.
On the few occasions when we mentioned to restaurateurs that it might be a nice idea to add a non-smoking sections for patrons lacking an interest in acquiring cancer, they invariably replied, "Oh, just wait. The Rauchverbot is coming on January 1." We came to understand this meant the "smoking ban."
Some time ago, the Bavarian state government decided to intervene on behalf of the health of its citizens, and announced that after January 1, 2008, smoking would no longer be allowed in most public places, including restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. The Germans, being notoriously law-abiding citizens, seemed resigned if not uniformly excited about this legislation. But it seemed to occur to none of the owners of these establishments that they were perfectly free to act before January 1.
As a result, we coughed and choked our way through three months in Germany, knowing that as soon as the law changed we would be going home. In the end, we only enjoyed four days of the Rauchverbot. But they were wonderful. The rate of compliance was shocking -- establishments like the Hofbrauhaus that had been besieged with tobacco fog for a century were suddenly liberated by fresh air.
A few posters announced the plans for a demonstration by smokers enraged by the new regime of persecution, but they seemed no match for the Health Ministry, not to mention millions of lungs now breathing freely.
Posted by dgf at 7:44 PM