Germany Gets Tough on Workplace Smokers

It is reaching the point in the United States where it is unusual to hear about a workplace that allows smoking. The same will soon be true in Germany.

Although smoking and smokers almost have been demonized in the United States, Europe is a different matter. Many Europeans perceive the ability to smoke where they want, when they want, as an inalienable right. But the times they are a changin', to quote Bob Dylan.

Germany's Federal Cabinet this week approved regulations that limit smoking in workplaces, claiming it will "significantly improve" the rights of non-smokers.

Germany has an existing regulation limiting smoking in the workplace, but it is so loosely worded that critics claim it is not enforceable. The new regulation, which takes effect in two weeks, requires employers "to take necessary measures to ensure that non-smoking employees are not exposed to health damaging tobacco smoke."

"We have succeeded in the long overdue task of creating legal clarity for non-smoker protection of workers and have considerably strengthened the legal position of non-smoking workers," said Health Minister Ulla Schmidt.

The regulation does not cover restaurants, bars and other businesses that are open to the public.

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