The EU has accused Germany of twiddling its thumbs even as an estimated 100,000 Germans die of nicotine consumption yearly. Worse, it says the government is deliberately trying to hamper the battle against smoking.
Now, ain't that cool? - James Dean with a cigarette dangling from his lips
In its latest scathing indictment, EU consumer affairs commissioner David Byrne has said that Germany is simply not doing enough to fight nicotine addiction.
In an interview with the "Berliner Zeitung", he said, "Germany is blocking the EU commission in its fight especially against tobacco advertising".
As opposed to the harsh measures adopted during the BSE crisis last year, he told the newspaper that Germany was "relatively easygoing" on its smoking policy given that some 100,000 Germans died each year from the consequences of smoking.
He also blamed Berlin of trying to hinder a comprehensive world-wide World Health Organisation (WHO) bid with over 190 against smoking.
The allegations are a serious setback to Germany’s record as a nation careful to regard the health of its citizens. The Federal Health Ministry was at pains to issue a statement saying that the German government laid special emphasis on dissuading young people from taking to smoking after Bryne’s damning comments.
Bryne also told the newspaper that a strong tobacco industry lobby was the reason for Germany’s vague commitments to combat the smoking vice.
In October 2000, Germany overturned a planned EU ban on tobacco advertising by raising objections at the European Court of Justice.
According to Bryne Germany has also distanced itself from a second agreement framework drawn up by the EU which deals with the banning of tobacco advertisements in the print media, radio and the internet by the year 2005.
But as opposed to the first ban, this one would allow tobacco advertisements in cinema halls and posters as well as on free give-aways such as umbrellas and ashtrays.
Bryne also expressed fears that in the future the tobacco industry in Europe too would by threatened by expensive lawsuits by scarred smokers much like in America.
Bryne also announced that the EU would kick off a three-year anti-smoking campaign in Germany on May 17, directed especially at young people.
The goal will be to reduce the number of smokers, who at present constitute more than 30 percent in the EU alone, to the US standard of 22 percent.