Smoking on the trains and at the stations
German railway stations are becoming increasingly like airport terminals. Smoking is forbidden apart from in the designated smoking areas. That sounds great but if anything, it is worse than before for non-smokers. Enough people obey the rules to mean that there are crowds of smokers in all of the smoking areas. So, when you want to enter a station, you have to walk through a furiously puffing crowd gathered round the entrances. Another area in which smoking is allowed is around the food sellers so, if you want a cup of coffee, expect to find that your mouth tastes like an ashtray by the time that you have queued up and bought it. Finally, the no-smoking rules are almost completely unenforced so most stations have nearly as many wandering puffers as before. Of course, if you have dark skin and light up where you shouldn't the cops will see that as all the excuse that they need to come and give you a hard time.

Why should it be like this? One reason is clearly that many Deutsche Bahn staff smoke - just look at them all puffing away happily in the non-smoking areas of the stations. Another reason is to boost sales from the food stands. They are right to think that a smoker standing next to a coffee stall is likely to buy a coffee but they have missed the fact that when they made these changes and I saw the consequences, I bought a thermos flask so that I no longer had to queue up in an ashtray for my morning coffee.

Most local trains are completely non-smoking and that rule appears to be fairly well followed. Long distance trains will have some smoking areas.

In recent years, the number of smoking areas on trains has been reduced. On some trains, the number of smoking seats has halved. That's a bit of a two edged sword. You may well find yourself sitting in a "non-smoking" carriage which was recently a smoking carriage. Some of these have been given special cleaning to remove the smell but many have not. Worse is to find yourself sitting next to a smoker who could not get a seat in the smoking carriage. These folks will sit next to you having just finished one smoke and then just as the effect is wearing off, they rush to the restaurant carriage - smokers welcome - to top up their stench before returning to sit next to you again. There is little that you can do about this other than wear a gas mask or move to another part of the train.

One place to which you cannot move is the restaurant car - where else will the smokers go if there are not enough seats for them in the smoking areas? As a result, the restaurant car is usually at least as smokey as the smoking compartments.

Personally, I find that the worst problems for non-smokers are caused by the train staff themselves. What do they do when they have to go and check the tickets in a non-smoking compartment? Correct, they go to the restaurant car and have a smoke, then while their breath is still full of the stench of stale smoke, they come and check the tickets. On one train that I catch on a regular basis, the train staff have a charming habit. They will reserve one compartment in a non-smoking "quiet-zone" carriage and sit there smoking, talking loudly and using their phones. I can only assume that this is some sort of puerile "up yours" gesture to the non-smoking passengers.

Links
Home See what else is on this site
Germany Living and working in Germany
Trains and Railways Back to the German trains start page