German doctors call for complete ban on smoking advertising

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German doctors call for complete ban on smoking advertising
Photo: DPA

Germany is the only country in the EU that still allows tobacco companies to advertise their products on billboards and in cinemas. Now, doctors and some politicians pushing to change this.


"The tedious and long-standing discussion about poster advertising [of smoking] is dismal," Klaus Reinhardt, president of the German Medical Association, told Spiegel Online.

READ ALSO: Four German states push for smoking ban in cars with children

"You can't accommodate the industry here. Smoking is harmful, period,” said Reinhardt, who said that all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should fit under the ban.

Germany was one of the last EU countries to adopt a smoking ban in 2007, although rules are still relatively lax, with many pubs, restaurants and public places still allowing it within their premises.

Lighting up is still widespread throughout the country, with 18.6 percent of women, and 26.4 percent of men, over aged 15 stating that they are smokers, according to 2017 data from the Robert Koch Institute. 

Graph prepared for The Local by Statista. 

WHO agreement

Fifteen years ago, the Bundestag made a commitment to the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue a "comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising" by 2010 at the latest. But so far their efforts have been in vain. 

For several months, Germany’s Grand Coalition has been negotiating about a new attempt to ban cigarette advertising, extending an existing ban to poster advertising and cinemas, where it does not yet apply.

They are still discussing whether this should apply not only to classic tobacco products, but also to e-cigarettes. 

The Social Democrats, as well as new federal drug commissioner Daniela Ludwig (CSU), want to push this through. 

Reinhardt said: "Everyone knows that young people in particular are susceptible to clichés about advertising. Not everything that is legal must be advertised." 

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) had spoken out in favour of a ban on advertising in June and had promised "a stance" to it by the end of the year. 

In the meantime, her coalition is discussing a ban on outdoor advertising from the beginning of 2022, and a ban on cinema films for young people starting in 2021.

Tobacco advertising is already banned on radio and television, newspapers and magazines. In the previous legislative period, an attempt to expand the ban had failed. 

An encroachment of freedom?

The cigarette industry argues, among other things, that a complete ban would be a disproportionate encroachment on advertising freedom.

The smoking behaviour of minors in their circle of friends and family, they say, is decisive for the start of smoking.

Fifty seven percent of Germans support a complete advertising ban for electric cigarettes, according to a representative survey conducted by the University of Düsseldorf in September. 

According to the survey, only 11 percent want the products to continue to be allowed to be advertised.

Germany has a smoking ban, but it is also more relaxed than most EU countries. 

In July 2007, the federal government passed a new law to protect non-smokers. In it, it urged the federal states to establish their own rules for smoking in pubs. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany needs to take the smoking ban more seriously

Only in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland, is smoking completely banned in pubs and restaurants. 

In other states, regulations are more relaxed, and it’s still possible to smoke in some restaurants, bars, clubs and other public spaces.


Advertising ban on smoking - (das) Werbeverbot fürs Rauchen

Tedious/lengthy - langwierig

In vain - vergebens

Push through/enforce - durchsetzen

A stance - (eine) Haltung

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.



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