German doctors call for complete ban on smoking advertising

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.

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

“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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How Spain could stamp out smoking

A fifth of Spain's population smokes on a daily basis. With such high numbers, here's how the country's pulmonologists propose to get smokers to quit.

Spain plans to get people to quit smoking
How Spain plans to get people to stop smoking. Photo: Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP

For many outsiders, Spain is a nation of smokers. 

The stats from Spain’s Ministry of Health show that 23.3 percent of men smoke every day in Spain, compared with 16.4 percent of women.

For both males and females, the highest number of smokers are aged between 25 and 34, meaning that it’s the younger population who are smoking slightly more than the older generations. 

Spain’s pulmonologists are now pushing for the country’s tobacco laws to be tightened, claiming that reform is needed after the last legislation was approved a decade ago.

READ ALSO: Spain warns against smoking and vaping in public to avoid Covid infections

Why is smoking such a problem in Spain and what is being done about it?

The latest stats from the Spanish Ministry of Health show that lung cancer, often caused by smoking, is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in Spain, with 29,549 cases diagnosed so far in 2021.

Given these high figures Spain’s Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) has proposed five measures to help get people to stop smoking.

SEPAR points out that every time anti-smoking legislation is reformed and things for smokers made more difficult, the prevalence of smoking decreases.  

Smoking on terraces was banned in some regions during the pandemic. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
  • Price of tobacco to rise in 2022

The first point on their list is to raise the price of tobacco, which must cover all forms, from cigarettes to cigars, through to rolling tobacco, and electronic cigarettes.  

This first measure may soon become a reality as the Spanish government has already predicted that the price of tobacco will rise in 2022, after several years of stagnation.  

It is expected that tobacco will be responsible for almost a third of all special taxes received in 2022, equating to €21.8 billion.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “cheap tobacco” in Spain guarantees “a percentage of smokers above 30 percent”.

In Spain, the price of a pack of tobacco is around €5, which is much cheaper than in other countries. In Australia for example, a pack of tobacco costs around €22, and in the United Kingdom and France, each pack of tobacco costs around €12.4 and €10.5, respectively.

According to Dr. Carlos A. Jiménez Ruiz, pulmonologist and president of the society, the current anti-smoking law has “some deficiencies” that need to be addressed in order to develop legislation that is more effective and efficient, especially with regard to the prevention of tobacco consumption in young people, but also in helping smokers to stop smoking and in protecting the health of non-smokers. 

READ ALSO – Maps: Which beaches in Spain have banned smoking?

Besides increasing the cost of tobacco SEPAR proposes four other measures to get Spain to quit smoking. These include:

  • Banning the consumption of tobacco in public spaces, even outdoors
    During the pandemic, several regions approved a regulation to prohibit smoking on terraces. SEPAR proposes that smoking be prohibited not only in spaces such as terraces but also in sports stadiums, beaches, parks and bullrings, and that fines should be imposed for those who do not comply.

  • Establish generic packaging
    SEPAR also wants Spain to introduce generic packaging, which means no logos and images of the tobacco companies. This measure has also proven to lower the sales of tobacco in countries where it has been implemented, such as Australia and New Zealand. According to the latest statistics from the Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey around 11.6 percent of adults in Australia smoke daily. 

  • The regulation of other smoking devices
    Despite the fact that all products that burn tobacco such as cigarettes are already regulated, SEPAR believes that it is also necessary to regulate the sale, consumption and advertising of electronic cigarettes. This is because e-cigarettes have become particularly popular among young people. 

  • Promote help for those seeking to quit smoking
    The last proposal is the creation and development of special units in public health departments to help people to stop smoking and to put more funds towards these programmes. 

How does Spain compare with other European countries when it comes to smoking?

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), while Spain does have a high number of smokers there are still several European countries that have more. The European countries with the highest number of smokers are Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary.

The latest European survey from 2020 shows that 42 percent of Greeks claim to be smokers, which is only slightly above Spain. 

On the other side, the European countries with the lowest number of smokers are mainly Nordic countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Norway.