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Will cigarettes soon only be sold in specialist shops?

Cigarette advertising in cinemas or at bus stops is history, but not yet in petrol stations and kiosks. Experts are now calling for drastic measures.

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, an alliance of health organizations is calling for the sale of cigarettes in supermarkets and gas stations to be banned. Instead, tobacco products and e-cigarettes should only be sold in licensed specialist shops, Katrin Schaller from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) told dpa in Heidelberg.

“The products that are hazardous to health are still far too present in everyday life – people are exposed to the incentive to buy when they are standing in line at the supermarket checkout or gas station counter.” A ban on advertising in such places is also extremely important. Advertising at the point of sale is still permitted.

The DKFZ, together with the Non-Smoking Action Alliance and other organizations, has written a letter to members of the Bundestag from the traffic light coalition calling for tough measures against tobacco consumption. In the coalition agreement in 2021, the parties agreed to tighten regulations for nicotine marketing and sponsorship.

“Since then, far too little has happened, the coalition has not delivered,” said Schaller. Cigarette smoking still causes massive damage to health and thousands of deaths every year. “The state must do more to reduce tobacco consumption to a minimum.”

The DKZF and the other organizations are also in favor of standardized packaging for tobacco products – brands should no longer be recognizable. “All packages should be olive green and contain the brand name in the same font,” explained Schaller. “The packaging is also an advertising space that has no place in public – so there should be standardized packaging.” This should also apply to tobacco heaters and e-cigarettes – they are also health risks, emphasized Schaller.

There is already a ban on advertising tobacco products and e-cigarettes on the Internet. According to the DKFZ, however, this often leads to legal violations. “E-cigarettes and tobacco heaters are still very present on social media,” complained Schaller. Children and young people in particular could be influenced by this and want to try these products. “The state must take tougher action against these violations and enforce the ban on advertising on the Internet,” she demanded.

The tobacco industry is shaking its head at the anti-smoking movement's move. Jan Mücke from the Federal Association of the Tobacco Industry and New Products (BVTE) pointed out that the industry's advertising options have already been restricted, and since the beginning of the year e-cigarettes have no longer been allowed to be advertised on posters. Given that relevant advertising in public spaces is only seen very sporadically, one cannot assume that further bans will help to reduce the smoking rate.

He also warned that retailers would lose important revenue if such an advertising ban were introduced. The BVTE believes that the requirement for standard packaging would be unconstitutional because it would destroy trademark rights and devalue ownership of them. According to industry representative Mücke, no further bans are necessary; instead, the state must consistently enforce the current rules. This particularly affects the widespread use of e-cigarettes among young people. The BVTE is calling for the introduction of a reporting portal where citizens can easily inform the authorities about violations.

World No Tobacco Day on May 31st is organized by the World Health Organization to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco consumption. This year's motto is “Protecting children from the influence of the tobacco industry.”

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