Tobacco-free public space – how is the European law executed in my country?

Smoking UN 2018

World Bank Photo: World Bank

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Sophie Gepp and Ms Laura Jung, the National Public Health Officers of the German Medical Students Association (bvmd). They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Despite having adopted the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 (1), Germany is still lacking behind in the execution of the Frameworks main ideas.

One issue is the fragmentation of the tobacco law. Since Germany is a Federal State and smoking laws are not made on a national level, each of the 16 states has its own smoking law.

While smoking in public buildings and public transport is consistently banned all over Germany, regulation around smoking bans in restaurants, pubs and cafés, is more complicated. Only three states, covering roughly 40% of the population, have strict smoking bans in these localities (2). Other states have generous exceptions to the smoking ban, e.g. for places with a size of less than 75 m² or with a restricted access for minors. Due to these exceptions, a majority of bars in many cities are eventually not smoking free, which increases second-hand smoking.

However, the fragmented law on smoking bans is not the biggest problem regarding tobacco free public spaces – a higher focus on tobacco advertisement is needed.

Germany is the only country in the EU which still allows billboard and cinema advertising of tobacco products in public spaces (3). Although the discussion about restrictions on tobacco advertisement have been going on for decades (4), all past attempts to ban billboard advertisement of tobacco in Germany have failed.

A reason for this is the strong influence of the tobacco lobby in Germany (5). The financial power of the industry is especially used to influence policy-makers, e.g. through sponsoring events and direct donations to parties. Lobby control states that from 2010 to 2015, Philip Morris alone gave 544,000 Euro to three major parties in Germany (6).

Evidence on the influence of advertisement on the uptake of smoking seems to be quite strong (7) and has been established since the 90s. If anything, evidence has only got stronger, especially regarding the influence on adolescents (8), which are often directly targeted by smoking advertisements (9). Because of this impact on smoking habits, a ban of tobacco advertisement should be an essential part of every anti-smoking policy.

In conclusion, there are two different issues with regard to tobacco-free public spaces in Germany. One is the inconsistency of smoking bans between federal states, the second is the failure to pass a ban on tobacco advertisement. This omnipresence of tobacco in public spaces, might partly explain why the prevalence of smoking in Germany remains quite high.

References

  1. United Nations. (2004). United Nations Treaty Collection. Accessed: 9.12.2017.        https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IX-                  4&chapter=9&clang=_en.
  2. pro-rauchfrei e.V. (Accessed: 13.10..2018                                                         https://www.pro-rauchfrei.de/wir-informieren/ueberblick-ueber-                 nichtraucherschutz-                gesetze-in-den-einzelnen-bundeslaendern
  3. Joossens, L. and M. Raw. (2017). “The Tobacco Control Scale 2016 in Europe.”
  4. Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum. (Accessed: 9.12.2017).

https://www.dkfz.de/de/tabakkontrolle/Tabakwerbung_und_Sponsoring.html.

  1. Der Spiegel (Accessed: 22.10.2018)

http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/service/zigarettenlobby-volker-kauder-                  blockiert-gesetz-gegen-tabakwerbung-a-1137549.html

  1. Müller, U. (2016). “Wie Der Tabakkonzern Philip Morris Die Parteien Sponsert”.      LobbyControl. Accessed: 12.12.2017.                   https://www.lobbycontrol.de/2016/12/philip-morris/.
  2. Botvin, G. J., et al. (1993). “Smoking Behavior of Adolescents Exposed to Cigarette Advertising.” Public Health Rep 108 2: page 217-24.
  3. Lovato, C., et al. (2003). “Impact of Tobacco Advertising and Promotion on Increasing Adolescent Smoking Behaviours.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev  4: page                   Cd003439.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2006). “Children, Adolescents, and Advertising.”           Pediatrics 118 6: page 2563-69.

     About the authors

Sophie Gepp and Laura Jung are the National Public Health Officers of the German Medical Students Association (bvmd) and have worked in other international organisations as UAEM before. They study Medicine in Berlin and Leipzig. Both of them finished a Public Health Masters at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last  year. They have a keen interest in public and global health and are currently trying to make these topics more accessible and attractive for other medical students.

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