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Scary photos on tobacco ‘should be copied’ here

Cigarette packs should carry frightening pictures, German cancer experts say – and said the move taken by Australia on Wednesday to impose such rules should be followed here.

Scary photos on tobacco 'should be copied' here
Photo: DPA

Australia this week introduced some of the world’s toughest laws on tobacco advertising – packaging has to bear carry images showing the effects of smoking such as cancerous lungs, a sick baby and rotten teeth, while the brand name is relegated to a small space.

Germany in contrast, not only sells comparatively cheap cigarettes, but is the last country in the European Union to continue to allow outdoor advertising of tobacco products.

The government remains one of the most lax in tobacco control in the western world – due to the economic power of tobacco companies, Dr Martina Pötschke-Langer from German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) told The Local.

“Tobacco companies have enormous power over German politicians,” she said. “The economy ministry in particular is incredibly strong in the German cabinet, and it has a close relationship with tobacco lobbyists,” she said. “This means that the health ministry comes second.”

But not only are German politics not strong enough to overrule the tobacco industry, the country has been on the back foot in researching the effects of smoking since the Second World War when, Pötschke-Langer explained, swathes of the country’s scientists were killed or fled.

This means that there has been much less home-grown research and fewer statistics published concerning German smokers.

Pötschke-Langer – who is not only head of cancer prevention for the DKFZ but also for the World Health Organisation tobacco control collaboration centre – is just one of countless experts who have been urging for the German government to change its tobacco legislation, but with little notable success.

A hard-line approach similar to that in Australia would have huge benefits for Germany, she explained – particular in dissuading ex-smokers from returning to tobacco, non-smokers from starting and persuading smokers to give up.

Photographs on packs of cancerous lungs, rotten teeth and deformed sperm “speak more than a thousand words, reach everyone and are a cost-effective way of educating lots of people,” she added.

The introduction of non-branded packets was also a move she said could be highly effective in reducing the country’s number of smokers. “When a packet becomes neutral it becomes a lot less attractive, especially to young people,” she said.

Social acceptance of smoking was, she said, slowly waning in Germany, aided by the nation’s penchant for travelling around Europe.

“Germans love to travel and when they go to the UK, or other countries, and see non-smoking bars they have their eyes opened.”

Although some moves have been made in Germany to ban smoking from public places, the principle is unevenly followed across the country, with many get-out clauses for bars in particular.

A cancer prevention doctor by trade, Pötschke-Langer said she did not think Germany could manage alone. “There is hope for the Germans, but we need outside pressure from the EU,” she said.

DPA/The Local/jcw

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

EU sees trouble but no breakdown with Italy far-right in power

The potential emergence of a far-right government in Italy has put the European Union on alert for disruptions, with fears that unity over the war in Ukraine could be jeopardised.

EU sees trouble but no breakdown with Italy far-right in power

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni and the League’s Matteo Salvini are slated to be the big winners in Sunday’s general election on a firmly “Italians First” agenda, in which officials in Brussels largely play the role
of the bogeyman.

The biggest worries concern the economy.

Italy’s massive debt is seen as a threat to European stability if Rome turns its back on the sound financing championed by outgoing prime minister, Mario Draghi, a darling of the EU political establishment.

A victory by Meloni and Salvini would follow fast on an election in Sweden where the virulently anti-migration and eurosceptic Sweden Democrats entered a ruling coalition, just months before the Scandinavian country is due to take over the EU’s rotating presidency.

READ ALSO: Giorgia Meloni’s party will likely win the elections – but will it last?

But officials in Brussels said they would not jump to conclusions about Italy, cautiously hanging on to reassurances made by key right-wing players ahead of the vote.

Giorgia Meloni delivers speech at party rally

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni (Rear C on stage) delivers a speech on September 23, 2022 in Naples. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

“This is not the first time that we risk confronting governments formed with far-right or far-left parties,” said European Commissioner Didier Reynders, a veteran of EU politics.

“Let voters choose their elected representatives. We will react to the actions of the new government and we have instruments at our disposal,” he added.

That was echoed by Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, who warned that Brussels had “tools” to deal with errant member states.

“My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together,” she said.

Anti-immigration League leader Matteo Salvini condemned the EU chief’s comments on Friday, calling them “squalid threats”.

READ ALSO: How would victory for Italy’s far right impact foreigners’ lives?

‘Benefit of the doubt’

Italy has huge amounts of EU money on the line. It is awaiting nearly 200 billion euros in EU cash and loans as part of the country’s massive share of the bloc’s coronavirus recovery stimulus package.

In order to secure each instalment, the government must deliver on a long list of commitments to reform and cut back spending made by previous administrations.

“To do without the billions from the recovery plan would be suicidal,” said Sebastien Maillard, director of the Jacques Delors institute.

“We will give them the benefit of the doubt,” said an EU official, who works closely with Italy on economic issues.

and right-wing parties Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia, FdI), the League (Lega) and Forza Italia at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, ahead of the September 25 general election.

(From L) Leader of Italian far-right Lega (League) party Matteo Salvini, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Italian far-right party Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni, and Italian centre-right lawmaker Maurizio Lupi on stage on September 22, 2022 during a joint rally of Italy’s coalition of far-right and right-wing parties. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

“We will judge them on their programme, who will be the finance minister. The names being mentioned are people that we in Brussels are familiar with,” the official added.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

However, when it comes to Russia, many fear that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will find in Italy a quick ally in his quest to water down measures against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A longtime friend of the Kremlin, Salvini has promised that he will not try to undo the EU sanctions. But many believe that his government will make the process more arduous in the coming months.

Whether the war or soaring inflation, “what we are facing in the coming months is going to be very difficult and very much test European unity”, said Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive at the European Policy Centre.

The likely election result in Italy is “not going to help in making some of these hard decisions”, he added.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: What happens on election day and when do we get the results?

France’s European affairs minister, Laurence Boone, pointed to the headache of the far-right’s unpredictability.

“One day they are for the euro, one day they are not for the euro. One day they support Russia, one day they change their minds,” she told French radio.

“We have European institutions that work. We will work together. But it is true that it is worrying,” she added

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