• 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
German squad leaves out one-legged long jumper
Markus Rehm. Photo: DPA

German squad leaves out one-legged long jumper

German athletics officials said on Wednesday they would not nominate the country's long jump champion Markus Rehm for the European championships because of fears his prosthetic leg gives him an unfair advantage. READ  

Second man arrested after synagogue attack
The synagogue on Tuesday after the attack. Photo: DPA

Second man arrested after synagogue attack

Police arrested a second suspect on Wednesday in connection with an attempted arson attack in which Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue in western Germany. Another man who said he was Palestinian has denied involvement. READ  

German women fall short of equality
Still a man's world: women in Germany find it hard to rise as high as Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: DPA

German women fall short of equality

Women in Germany are still underrepresented in leadership jobs and among professors, a new government report said on Wednesday. They are also paid less and remain unlikely to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics. READ  

The Local List
Five reasons to visit (and to avoid) Oktoberfest
Photo: DPA

Five reasons to visit (and to avoid) Oktoberfest

With just over 50 days to go until Munich's Oktoberfest starts, it is time to book your train/plane/horse to the world’s biggest beer festival. Or is it? The Local List looks at five reasons you should be making that trip, and five why you'd better steer clear. READ  

Visa chaos hits Bayern Munich's USA tour
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Photo: DPA

Visa chaos hits Bayern Munich's USA tour

Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is among the club's staff and players who could not join a week-long tour to the USA on Wednesday because of visa problems. READ  

Dead TV star replies to SPD party invite
German actress Renater Küster with a statue of her late husband Dieter Hildebrandt. Photo: DPA

Dead TV star replies to SPD party invite

The Social Democrats (SPD) accidentally invited a dead TV star to attend its summer party. It got a shock when the veteran presenter replied saying, "I can't make it". READ  

Father killed in 'Cold Water Challenge'
The digger tipped over. Photo: DPA

Father killed in 'Cold Water Challenge'

A father died and five of his friends were injured on Tuesday night in western Germany when a digger fell on top of them during a so-called Cold Water Challenge. READ  

Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds
Raisting crop circle. Photo: DPA

Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds

A mysterious crop circle in Bavaria has attracted thousands of visitors since it was spotted in a wheat field last week. READ  

German siblings killed by drunk driver in Austria
Photo: DPA

German siblings killed by drunk driver in Austria

A ten-year-old girl and her 21-year-old brother were killed overnight in a road accident on the A1 motorway in Upper Austria, caused by a drunk driver who was driving on the wrong side of the road. READ  

Merkel: Russia sanctions were 'inevitable'
Merkel warned further sanctions could be imposed against Russia. Photo: DPA

Merkel: Russia sanctions were 'inevitable'

Strong sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis were “inevitable”, Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed on Tuesday night, despite Germany's initial reluctance to get tough on President Vladimir Putin. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Have Your Say: Should Germany legalize cannabis?
Photo: DPA
Education
Germany's students fail to graduate in time
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
instagram.com/gotzemario
Gallery
Germany's World Cup stars share their holiday photos
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
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

3,261
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd