Minister Renate Kunast Declares War on Big Tobacco

The German war against cigarettes.

Germany had the world’s strongest anti-smoking movement in the 1930s and early 1940s, during the Nazi period. Hitler, who was a chain-smoker, was expelled from school at age eight after being caught smoking. He gave up smoking when he was 35 years old and dreamed of making all Germans quit, too.

Bans on smoking in public spaces were introduced along with bans on advertising, restrictions on tobacco rations for women, and the world’s most refined tobacco epidemiology, linking tobacco use with the already evident epidemic of lung cancer.

Today, in the German (and European) war against cigarette smoking, German Consumer Affairs Minister Renate Kunast has stepped up the offensive: Kunast published, in 2005, a list of about 200 cigarette additives, and wants those deemed carcinogenic or addictive banned — throughout Europe.

“In this way, smokers, who number about 17 million in Germany, can find out for themselves what exactly is in cigarettes and what harm they do.” Finally!

Sixty of Germany’s largest cities banned smoking on streetcars in 1941. Smoking was banned in air raid shelters — though some shelters reserved separate rooms for smokers. During the war years, tobacco rationing coupons were denied to pregnant women (and to all women below the age of 25) while restaurants and cafes were barred from selling cigarettes to female customers.

From July 1943, it was illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to smoke in public. Smoking was banned on all German city trains and buses in 1944, the initiative came from Hitler himself, who was worried about the exposure of young female conductors to tobacco smoke. Nazi policies were heralded as marking “the beginning of the end” of tobacco use in Germany.

Nonetheless, German smoking rates rose dramatically in the first six years of Nazi rule, suggesting that the propaganda campaign launched during those early years was largely ineffective. Smoking may have served as a subconscious factor of cultural resistance.

In fact, German smoking rates rose even faster than those of France, which had a much weaker anti-tobacco campaign. German per capita tobacco use between 1932 and 1939 rose from 570 to 900 cigarettes a year, whereas French tobacco consumption grew from 570 to only 630 cigarettes over the same period.

“Do not Irritate Smokers”

Karl-Heinz Florenz

Karl-Heinz Florenz, head of the European Parliament’s Health Committee

Today health experts have long maintained that the tobacco industry inserts ingredients to make people more quickly addicted. Minister Renate Kunast also said that certain ingredients attracted younger people to cigarettes more effectively.

“If they cause cancer, they have to go,” she told Berliner Morgenpost, referring to the chemical additives added to cigarettes.

Meanwhile, opposition politicians attacked her initiative to inform consumers on cigarette additives in cigarettes, saying it was not an effective weapon against cigarettes and that it would not terrify smokers, only irritate them.

“It is a contradictory approach,” CDU Bundestag member Helmut Heiderich told the Berliner Morgenpost. He and other members of the Bundestag’s committee on consumer affairs want further tax hikes on tobacco, which have proved effective in reducing the number of smokers… Without irritating them?

Heiderich’s CDU colleague, Karl-Heiny Florenz, the head of the European Parliament’s Health Committee, stated that there should be a total ban on cigarettes: “Cigarettes are a dangerous weapon and need to be removed from the marketplace.”

An absurd and cunning proposal: a similar total ban would not be possible for a thousand reasons, in fact, not even Hitler dared to propose such a thing.

The Healthy Society

Renate Künast

German Consumer Affairs Minister Renate Künast

In the period of the Third Reich, chemical additives were not used in cigarettes, but if they had been, there is no doubt that the problem would have been dealt with effectively, and the Marlboro Cowboy would have met his match, but even this would not have been the best solution.

Perhaps, what the Fuhrer had not understood is that a healthy society is not the result is of odious prohibitions, but of a profound process of individual training, which is achieved first of all through correct information.

Only this way you can make a choice between what is better and what is worse for your life.

“Smokers should be able to inform themselves as to what exactly is in cigarettes and what harm they do,” says Minister Renate Kunast.

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