Why shouldn't we ban smoking?
"The state must restrict the individual"
Many suggestions are currently being made, are they all useful?
In any case, they are effective in the media. Whether it makes sense or not, the discussions show that there is an interest in the questions raised and that citizens are unsure about the risk assessment. Most proposals have in common that they invoke or pretend to want to protect someone. Children and young people are of course best suited for this.
But let's take a systematic approach to the question of the meaning of the proposals. When it comes to weighing up risks, a distinction must always be made between individual and general risks, i.e. between those that we voluntarily take on and those that we are involuntarily exposed to.
What are some examples of this?
It is usually up to the individual to decide whether or not to take the risk of parachuting, unprotected sexual intercourse, or an unreasonable lifestyle. But they have no way of protecting themselves from the dangers of contaminated drinking water or from increased fine dust in the air they breathe. Here the organs of the state have to take protective action and the citizen has to be able to absolutely rely on them.
And the cigarette, in which of the two risk groups does it belong?
On the one hand it is an individual, i.e. voluntary risk, on the other hand it can and usually is an involuntary general risk. First of all, the former. It is well known that cigarettes are not just any risk to health and life, but the single greatest risk in our lives. However, since it must and should be left to everyone to decide how they want to harm their health and shorten their lives, it makes no sense to want to ban the cigarette entirely.
However, the damage to the health of the individual also causes costs for the health system. The drug commissioner of the federal government, Marion Caspers-Merk, pointed out that the consequences of smoking "cost the health insurances at least 20 billion euros annually".
While I cannot confirm the accuracy of this number, the health burden from the effects of smoking is certainly high. And that already results in a restriction of what has been said above. The question is whether it is acceptable for the general public to bear the consequential costs of personal misconduct. I say no. However, it is also difficult or impossible to prove to the individual the harm sustained to the community. If the community of solidarity is to help in the event of illness, the state must also be given the opportunity to restrict the individual's freedom of choice.
So through legal provisions and prohibitions.
Right, there is no other way. In principle, the same applies to other individual risks that someone voluntarily takes on, for example in extreme sports. Nobody is forced to jump off a mountain top with a hang glider, but they expect the general public to pay for the follow-up costs in the event of an accident. Why?
Do we come to passive smoking, a real risk or a hyped risk?
A real, and to put it straight away, a completely unacceptable risk. Forcing others to smoke secondarily commits physical harm. The imprint "Smoking can be fatal" on the cigarette packs is pointless, because the notice does not interest the smoker and does not make him thoughtful either. The label "Smoking harms you and your surroundings" is much better. This does not protect the non-smoker either, but at least reminds the smoker that he is deliberately harming others.
To be clear once again: the cigarette is a voluntary, but to a much greater extent also an involuntary risk. Where non-smokers are involuntarily exposed to the smoke of others, the state is obliged to take protective action through laws, requirements and prohibitions.
Keyword ban on smoking in the car. Politicians from the government and the opposition recently spoke out in favor of it, while ADAC, AvD and the Austrian car club ÖAMTC are against it.
In my opinion, the discussion about this has already ended, and rightly so, because it is absurd. It is largely unknown which activities such as talking on the phone and talking, eating or kissing while driving increase the risk of accidents. There is even an argument in favor of smoking, as a ban on smoking in the car can, under certain circumstances, increase the risk of accidents. Every working person who is under constant stress during the day can notice in the evening that he feels worse when he is at rest than when he is under stress. This has to do with the falling adrenaline levels. If you withdraw the cigarette from a nicotine-used body during this phase, sudden dangerous circulatory disorders can occur. What can harm one can also benefit the other.
Well, not only is the nicotine dangerous, the additives are too. In this context, what do you think of the suggestions made by Consumer Minister Künast to commission studies into dangerous additives and, if necessary, to ban these substances in cigarettes?
Just as little as the total ban on cigarettes. Such examinations are pointless, only cost money and are intended to show that those responsible are also responsible. For those who smoke voluntarily, it does not matter whether they are harmed by nicotine or additives such as menthol. And for those who involuntarily have to smoke too, it doesn't matter what harms them. It is not the case that the cigarette becomes harmless after the elimination of harmful additives. So, that is actionism, and not more blindly, but more consciously, in order to show, as in other situations - take BSE and the mass slaughter - that something is being done for the security of the population. Based on all the experiences that have been made with measures of this kind so far, it can be said that they do little to make citizens' lives safer, but they do a lot to make them more expensive.
So advocate a total smoking ban in public places, as other countries, e.g. B. Ireland and Italy, already have?
Yes. Only the separation of smokers from non-smokers is beneficial for non-smokers, and that means a ban on smoking in public places such as restaurants, shops, public transport, etc. What is possible in other countries should actually also be possible in this country. But what do you do with us? They are proud to have drawn up lists of pollutants and to have made voluntary agreements with the catering industry for non-smoking areas.
Advertising theme. The Federal Cabinet has approved the controversial ban on advertising tobacco products in newspapers and at sporting events. An EU directive must be implemented with the draft law, against which Germany, however, has filed an action with the European Court of Justice. Is it really the case that an advertising ban reduces cigarette consumption?
Cigarette advertising does not make you a smoker. It is therefore not to be expected, and experience in other countries has also shown this, that an advertising ban will lead to a decrease in cigarette consumption. Advertising is mainly there to motivate the smoker to switch from one brand to another. Advertising does not make you a driver. But advertising can turn you from an Audi to a BMW driver.
But aren't teenagers particularly susceptible to advertising?
It is always said, I don't believe it, even if there is one study or another that seems to support it. No, adolescents do not become a smoker through advertising, completely different motives are in the foreground: wanting to grow up, emancipation and - especially with girls - the feeling that whoever smokes stays slim. And unfortunately that's also true. These are the reasons for smoking, not the advertising. If Marlboro is no longer on Schumacher's Ferrari, that doesn't mean that cigarette consumption will decrease.
Young people don't go miles for a camel, they just go to the nearest machine or kiosk and buy the cheapest thing there is to smoke. The behavior of cliques is also important. If smoking is cool, people smoke, you don't want to stand apart. And when non-smoking is in, you try to quit again so as not to become an outsider. Incidentally, initial studies show that there is again a trend towards non-smoking among adolescents. With the examples I want to say that the influence of these behavioral mechanisms is certainly greater than the effect of cigarette advertising.
So what do you think is the most important thing to keep young people safe?
Making access to cigarettes more difficult and drastically reducing the number of people who smoke.
Professor Heilmann, thank you for this interview.
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