German newspaper says hoaxed by pro-smoking crusader

BERLIN Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:19pm EST

A woman puts out a cigarette in a restaurant in Munich, December 31, 2007. A Hamburg newspaper that reported last week on a computer company manager who said he fired three non-smokers because they had threatened disruptions after asking for a smoke-free environment said on Monday the story was a hoax. REUTERS/Alexandra Beier

A woman puts out a cigarette in a restaurant in Munich, December 31, 2007. A Hamburg newspaper that reported last week on a computer company manager who said he fired three non-smokers because they had threatened disruptions after asking for a smoke-free environment said on Monday the story was a hoax.

Credit: Reuters/Alexandra Beier

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A Hamburg newspaper that reported last week on a computer company manager who said he fired three non-smokers because they had threatened disruptions after asking for a smoke-free environment said on Monday the story was a hoax.

Stephanie Lamprecht, a journalist at the Hamburger Morgenpost, said Thomas Joschko first told her he had fired the three from his 10-person staff because they were causing a disruption with their non-smoking but later admitted it was a hoax.

Lamprecht, whose story was published widely in the German and international media last week, said: "He said it was a joke and worth the trouble. He said he's a chain-smoker himself and said he was tired of smokers being hassled so much."

Joschko could not be reached for comment.

Lamprecht said she drove 120 km (75 miles) from Hamburg to Buesum on Monday to try to confirm the story after doubts about its accuracy surfaced. She said the Morgenpost planned to publish an updated version of the story in its Wednesday edition.

"He said he was on a pro-smoker mission," said Lamprecht. She said she had checked some of the facts of his story last week after he called in his claim and that he was registered as the owner a small company in Buesum.

(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Stephen Weeks)

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