Smoking ban extending sparks debate in Germany

The German liberal FDP called for ban on smoking in public places to be extended, Wieland Schinnenburg, FDP spokesperson for drug and addiction policy, told the German editorial network (RND) on Thursday.

“Smoking must be forbidden everywhere where people cannot, or can only with difficulty, evade it,” specifically public playgrounds, bus stops or platforms, Schinnenburg told the RND.

The background to the German politician’s demand was a recent tightening of the public smoking ban in Sweden, which was extended from 1 July to include smoking in front of bars or restaurants.

Schinnenburg, however, would not go that far in Germany as “it does not make sense to ban smoking in front of restaurants. Nobody has to go there and we just want to ensure that there is no smoking in the restaurants”.

Opposition to extending Germany’s public smoking ban came from the right-wing populist AfD party.

“Bans usually only get undermined,” health policy spokesperson Axel Gehrke (AfD) told the RND, although Gehrke emphasized that protection against passive smoking was important.

The German Greens called for “clear smoking zones in the outside areas of public buildings, pubs and restaurants, and especially at the workplace, provide safety and contribute to health protection,” Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, the party’s spokesperson for drug policy told the RND.

Above all, however, it would be important to finally enforce a general ban on tobacco advertising in Germany, as was already the case in other European Union (EU) countries, Kappert-Gonther noted.

Germany is the only EU country where cigarette advertising is still permitted on advertising pillars, bus stops and cinema screens.

The German Left Party (Die Linke) also called for tobacco advertising to be banned in Germany.

“We should proceed step by step,” said Harald Weinberg, Left Party spokesperson for health policy. “First a ban on advertising tobacco products, then we can take further action”.

The German government had wanted to adopt an advertising ban for tobacco products on billboards and in cinemas from 2020, but the bill ultimately failed due to opposition from the CDU-CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

According to the German Cancer Research Center (dkfz), smoking and its effects cause between 110,000 and 140,000 deaths per year in Germany. Around 90 percent of all lung cancer cases were caused by smoking.