“Rheinbahn pays more attention to the smoking ban – also on middle floors”. A Rheinbahn AG press release on June 26, 2011 announces that it has implemented a comprehensive smoking ban on the passenger floor of Heinrich-Heine-Allee. This is the result of a lengthy effort by Pro Rauchfrei e.V. and the health department of the city of Düsseldorf.

As early as November 2010, citizens approached the consumer protection department of Pro Rauchfrei to point out the poor air quality and the lack of non-smoker protection in the Heinrich-Heine-Allee passage. Rheinbahn customers had been writing to Rheinbahn AG about this issue for several years – unfortunately to no avail.

Rheinbahn AG’s following statement covered up the chaos that had previously prevailed there. At first there was a smoking ban only on the platform itself, and not in the passage. After that there was a smoking ban in the passage too, but the security staff didn’t enforce it and Rheinbahn AG’s own employees did not comply either. Finally, Pro Rauchfrei e.V. was informed in a written statement that the no-smoking signs had been incorrectly affixed.

From there we contacted Rheinbahn AG after preliminary investigations, who repeatedly rebuked us and mentioned occasions (e.g. carnival) when they simply did not want to implement the smoking ban so as not to “look bad”. We only received a reply to our letter in November 2010 in February 2011, after we had contacted the City of Düsseldorf (the owner), which then mediated through the mayor’s office.

In addition, an official request to the Rheinbahn AG for access to files in accordance with the NRW Freedom of Information Act went unanswered. They informed us in a letter that they found our request “strange”. Pro Rauchfrei merely wanted to verify the efforts of Rheinbahn AG after repeatedly being sent excuses. However, according to a statement from the NRW State Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information available to Pro Rauchfrei, Rheinbahn was under the obligation to provide this information. The city of Düsseldorf had handed down the enforcement of non-smoker legislation to Rheinbahn AG for “independent implementation”, which had visibly gone wrong.

The testimonies also led us to contact the city’s health department, which was also interested in an effective and consistent solution to the issue of non-smoker protection in Heinrich-Heine-Allee. They had also been annoyed by the constant postponement by Rheinbahn AG and could find no reason why the issue was repeatedly postponed.

This lack of enforcement is typical to scenarios where public interests are handed down to private companies for implementation.

Pro Rauchfrei held numerous discussions with citizens, collected statements and evidence, as Rheinbahn AG insinuated that our statements were not true. Even until the very end, the security staff claimed that a smoking ban would only apply down on the platform, which was followed by a press release the very next day.
The security staff had also contributed significantly to this situation with their behavior by simply not enforcing the smoking ban and telling complaints that they “didn’t want to be petty”. As a result, smokers were deliberately ignored and went unpunished.

It took years, numerous letters and the involvement of the public health department to bring about a change in the situation.
The files managed by Pro Rauchfrei e.V. comprise more than 100 pages of documents.

Pro Rauchfrei is grateful for the support of the Düsseldorf city council, represented by the health department, which has also campaigned for effective protection for non-smokers.

We hope that the smoking ban will finally be enforced and that violations will be punished consistently. Pro Rauchfrei will continue keeping an eye on whether Reihnbahn AG fulfills its duties.