Germany is to be forced to reverse its ban on smoking in small pubs, the country's top constitutional court has ruled.
The court said a ban on smoking in small one-room bars in two states - Berlin and Baden-Wuttermberg - was discriminatory as similar pubs that had extra rooms were legally allowed to offer one for smokers.
The situation differs to that in the UK where a total smoking ban covers all public places, meaning a level playing field for all businesses.
Smokers should also be permitted to light up in one-room venues, the court said.
The ruling is likely to set a precedent for other German states.
In an emailed statement, the court said: "Lawmakers could totally ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. But if they decide to allow exceptions for some barkeepers, then these exceptions must also apply to small pubs which are most hit by the ban.''
The ruling upheld a complaint lodged by the owners of two small bars in Berlin and a disco operator in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, who argued the ban had cut their revenues by more than 30 per cent.
Hans-Juergen Papier, the court's president, said the law would need to be redrawn by the end of next year.
He said until then, smoking should be permitted in bars and restaurants of less than 75 square metres that lack a separate smokers' area.
About one third of Germans smoke, which is one of the highest rates in Europe.