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Europe

European Study Rebukes Germany on Smoking

A Europe-wide study of anti-smoking policies due out Tuesday will criticize Germany's weak efforts to curb the habit. But Iceland and Britain are in for praise.

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Germans are still eagerly reaching for smokes

The European Network for Smoking Prevention will release a report ranking the European Union's 25 member states, as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, in terms of their progress on a range of anti-smoking measures.

The report heavily criticizes Germany for its weak implementation of the anti-smoking measures, which were recommended by the World Bank.

Bottom ten

Germany ranked among the lowest 10 countries in the study, which graded the nations on the basis of six specific criteria. These included increased taxes on cigarettes, smoke-free policies in offices, bars and restaurants, anti-tobacco advertising, and clear warnings on cigarette packages.

The survey also rated access to treatment for nicotine addiction, and increased government "tobacco control" budgets, which go to fund other anti-smoking measures.

"Germany is certainly lagging behind," Luk Joossens, who coordinated the network's report, told the Reuters news agency. "It's in the lowest 10 countries, so it could clearly do better."

Cheap smokes

Raucher raucht Zigarette - Weltnichtrauchertag

smoker with cigarette

Luxembourg and the Czech Republic are also set to be criticized for keeping cigarette prices very cheap in relation to wages. On the other hand, Iceland won top honors, having implemented almost all of the World Bank measures. Britain also scored high, because it makes cigarettes so expensive with tax.

World Bank research shows that raising prices by 10 percent cuts cigarette consumption in a wealthy country by four percent.

A package of Marlboro cigarettes is more than twice as expensive in Britain than in Luxembourg, data show.

In March, Ireland became the first country to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and pubs. Norway and Malta have since instituted similar bans and incoming European Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou last week urged all EU governments to follow Ireland's example within five years.

More young smokers

The study also examined smoking rates over the last two decades. There has been an overall decline in adult smoking in Europe, Joossens told Reuters, but smoking among young people has not fallen over the last 10 years in most regions.

In Germany, tobacco consumption among 12-15 year-olds almost doubled over the past ten years, with some 21 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys in the age group smoking regularly. For 16-19 year-olds, the figure is 45 percent.

The country is a smokers' paradise, with cheap cigarettes available from machines on street corners and very few restrictions as to where it is or is not acceptable to light up.

In fact, the state of Berlin broke new ground this year in implementing a ban on smoking in its schools. It's a move which other states are likely to follow, but for the time being children over the age of 16 can smoke in designated areas on school premises provided they present a letter of consent from their parents.

Roll your own

Officially, cigarette sales in Germany dropped by nine percent over the previous year in 2003, and big brand producers have reported trailing sales. But there is evidence that more smokers have been turning to rolling tobacco and cigars, which have been spared the higher taxation rates dumped on cigarettes over the past couple of years.

Zigarettenschmuggel boomt.

cartons of smuggled cigarettes

There is also concern that more and more smokers are turning to smuggled, black market and cheaper tobacco (photo) to feed their habit.

EU Commission attempts to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants, or introducing smoke-free workplaces, has met with rigid resistance in Germany. German cities are splitting at the seams with bars and restaurants and at best only one in two of them have a designated smoking section.

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