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German bill on smoking snuffed out

Anti-smoking crusaders in Germany said on Friday they were disappointed a bill that would have placed limits on smoking in public buildings was defeated in parliament, but they vowed to press on with their campaign.

Even though some politicians and medical groups called it a bitter defeat for non-smokers in Germany, a country with almost no restraints on smoking, they said the heated discussion had for the first time raised public awareness."The decision is a defeat for tolerance, the spirit of consideration and health in our country," said Gerald Haefner, a member of the Greens who led the cross-party alliance that wanted to outlaw smoking in public buildings.

"The winners are selfishness and those, including the federal government, who profit so handsomely from the addiction of so many people," he added. "I have never run into such a tenacious and determined lobby as the German cigarette lobby."

Parliament voted down the controversial measure by a margin of 336 to 256 late on Thursday. The bill would have also required companies to set up smoke-free zones. It would have banned smoking on public transport and required companies to set up sepa-rate rooms for smokers.

Employers who failed to set aside non-smoking areas could have faced fines of up to $2,800. People caught smoking in such areas would have faced fines of up to 100 marks.

Even Health Minister Horst Seehofer spoke out against the measure, arguing it was patronizing and would have created a new bureaucracy.

He said it would be more effective to enlighten the public about the risks of second-hand smoke rather than impose bans, a remark that drew jeers from the cross-party alliance backing the bill.