German Minister Calls For Smoking Ban in Public Places

A German minister has advocated far-reaching restrictions on smoking in public places, pointing in an interview published Sunday to similar bans in other countries.

Germany traditionally has been a haven for smokers. At the soccer World Cup, organizers have limited themselves to appealing to fans not to light up, a plea they hope will "reduce smoking to the minimum."

Still, with other European countries such as Ireland and Italy having clamped down on smoking in workplaces and bars, calls recently have been heard for action in Germany.

"As minister for consumers, I would like healthier air to breathe," Horst Seehofer, the agriculture and consumer protection minister, was quoted as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"That's why we should get together to ensure more protection for non-smokers and have the courage to ban smoking in all public facilities," he added.

Seehofer, who served as health minister in a previous conservative government, cited the health effects of both smoking and passive smoking. He dismissed suggestions that a ban would demonstrate intolerance, pointing to restrictions in the United States, Italy and Britain.

"Only in Germany are we still trailing behind," he was quoted as saying. "Why is it allowed here to smoke in a hospital or a nursing home? In an airport or a railway station?"