• Germany edition
 
Opinion
'Germany should raise smoking age to 21'
Photo: DPA

'Germany should raise smoking age to 21'

Published: 05 Nov 2013 13:19 GMT+01:00
Updated: 05 Nov 2013 13:19 GMT+01:00

Berlin Christian Democrat (CDU) politician Cornelia Seibeld told regional newspaper the BZ this week that Germany should follow New York's lead and increase the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.

“We need to curb nicotine addiction among young people” said Seibeld, citing figures showing that it was more common for German youngsters to be addicted to cigarettes than alcohol.

Raising the legal smoking age could help put a cap on this, as by the time they reach 21 people are “more aware of the health consequences of their behaviour,” she told the BZ.

Spatz agreed, and told The Local that Germany should indeed “look to New York for a positive role model” for dissuading young smokers. “If a person starts under the age of 21 they are more likely to become addicted,” he said, echoing Seibeld's argument.

The anti-smoking campaigner admitted that he knew that Germany was still a long way from stubbing out its love affair with tobacco. “The tobacco business has a stronghold in Germany as it's an industry-friendly country,” he said.

And as one of the world's leading exporters of cigarettes, Germany should first change what he described as the “cuddling up between the government and tobacco companies.” As it stands, the two are too close for change to be feasible, Spatz believes.

Yet even though Germany is still considered relatively smoke-tolerant within Europe, the past decade has seen the beginnings of change, with a ban on smoking in the workplace introduced in 2007 - which included most bars and restaurants.

Since then the country has seen 10 percent drop in strokes and heart attacks, according to research from the German Cancer Research Centre. But the ban is being implemented patchily, with different federal states imposing different rules, and many bars banning under-18s and declaring themselves havens for smokers.

“Go in a bar or disco, and it's horrible,” said Spatz.

The 2007 reform also raised the legal smoking age to 18 and since then the number of young smokers has, Spatz said, continued to drop. Banning smoking on school grounds also saw numbers pushed down and “There are studies which show clearly that it is no longer cool," he suggested.

“The number of young people smoking has dropped by 28 percent since 2001, basically because they can't” he said, adding that “over the past ten years the number of cigarettes being made per year has dropped from 150 billion to 80 billion.”

But the fact that Germany is one of only two countries in the EU – the other being Bulgaria – that still allows tobacco companies to advertise, is a problem that needs to be addressed alongside trying to push up the legal limit.

This “grouped measures” approach – both banning advertising and introducing a 21 age-limit – could be the key to de-normalising smoking, something that Spatz suggested “could change under the new coalition,” he said.

As for fears that more teenagers would smoke illegally - and buy counterfeit cigarettes from smugglers if they were banned from buying their smokes in the shops , Spatz dismissed the idea.

“This is a standard argument from tobacco companies,” he said. “There has been very little increase in illegal cigarette trade since the age limit was raised in 2007.”

What do you think? Registered users of The Local may add their comments in the field below. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here – it’s free and only takes a moment.

READ MORE: Germany bans Marlboro 'Maybe' ads

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Jessica Ware (jessica.ware@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Coalition horsetrading starts after Saxony vote
CDU leader Stanislav Tillich with SPD Martig Dulig. Photo: DPA

Coalition horsetrading starts after Saxony vote

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic (CDU) party is in search of a new partner after the expulsion of its former allies the Free Democrats (FDP) from the Saxon state parliament. READ  

Presented by Phorms Education
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation
Photo: Phorms Education

Bilingual education from nursery to graduation

A network of German based schools is changing how students learn languages by introducing English and Deutsch from day one, with the method yielding impressive academic results. The Local finds out more about Phorms Education. READ  

JobTalk Germany
'German bosses need to praise more'
More of this? Photo: Shutterstock

'German bosses need to praise more'

What do German bosses need to do to get more out of their staff? Frankfurt-based business consultant Justin Bariso has this advice. READ  

Germany to send Kurds weapons shipment
German soldiers training with machine guns. Photo: DPA

Germany to send Kurds weapons shipment

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to address the Bundestag on Monday to detail the weapons her government will send to Iraqi Kurds fighting terrorist group Isis. READ  

Train drivers take their turn to strike
A banner announcing a previous rail strike in June is displayed in a station. Photo: DPA

Train drivers take their turn to strike

A train drivers' union has warned of a nationwide strike to take place on Monday evening as it seeks leverage in negotiations with Deutsche Bahn. READ  

Weak exports hit German GDP
Germany isn't sending as many goods abroad as at the beginning of the year. Photo: DPA

Weak exports hit German GDP

GDP fell by 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2014 but state coffers are doing well, the Federal Office of Statistics Destatis announced on Monday. READ  

Anti-euro breakthrough
Anti-euro AfD nears 10 percent in state election
AfD politicians Hans-Olaf Henkel MEP and leader Bernd Lucke, celebrate the party's success in Saxony on Sunday. Photo: Daniel Naupold/DPA

Anti-euro AfD nears 10 percent in state election

UPDATED: Germany's anti-euro party, AfD, won its first seats in a state parliament on Sunday after elections in Saxony, according to preliminary results. READ  

Berlin to open memorial to Nazis' disabled victims
Auschwitz. Photo: DPA

Berlin to open memorial to Nazis' disabled victims

Benjamin Traub, a sad-eyed German boy born in 1914, was considered a bright child by his parents and called gifted by his teachers. His life would end in a Nazi gas chamber. READ  

Anti-euro party to debut in state parliament
AfD leader Bernd Lucke celebrates his party's EU election results. Photo: DPA

Anti-euro party to debut in state parliament

Germany's fledgling anti-euro party looks set to win its first seats in a state parliament on Sunday, gaining a political foothold in opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel's grip on power. READ  

Stakes rise in Oracle-SAP copyright fight
Photo: DPA

Stakes rise in Oracle-SAP copyright fight

US appeals court on Friday ruled that Oracle be given a choice between $356.7 million or a new trial for its copyright lawsuit against German rival SAP. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,418
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd