The cost of cigarettes jumped in Germany this week as a result of increased taxes. Will the move change the habits of a nation of committed smokers?
His habit just got more expensive
Its a direct hit to the smoker's pocketbook: The price of cigarettes rose this week in Germany by as much as 40 euro cents (53 US cents) a pack.
The second of a projected three-part tobacco-tax increase went into effect on Wednesday, and with it came an approximately 2 cent per cigarette increase in the cost of a package. Of that, 1.2 cents is due to the tobacco increase; the rest goes directly to the individual tobacco companies.
More to come
A third round of tax increases is expected to go into effect in September, 2005. The increased tax revenues are expected to finance government subsidies for non-typical public health care coverage.
Germany has frequently come under criticism for its weak efforts to curb smoking. Compared with many other western European countries, Germany has cheaper cigarettes, fewer laws to curb public smoking, less anti-tobacco advertising, and more smoke friendly workplaces.
In other words, Germany has been a very smoker-friendly nation. In a recent study from the European Network for Smoking Prevention, Germany ranked in the bottom 10 of 25 countries examined.
A forced change in habits?
But now, some say the increased prices are a step toward curbing a habit run amok.
The president of the German Cancer Society, Dagmar Schipanski, told AP news agency that her organization believes higher cigarette prices lead to less smoking overall.
"The last tax increases are already showing their effects," she told AP in Bonn. "Many people have quit, and more are doing it every day." And their information on smoking cessation is in such great demand that "we had to increase our print run," she said.
In a poll carried out by the Nicorette company -- makers of aids to help people quit smoking -- Germans were asked whether they would try to kick the habit because of a cigarette price hike. Half of the respondents said yes, according to a report on the n-tv television network.
But a smoker not affiliated with any non-smoking products told a different story.
"Of course I'll keep smoking when the prices go up," Horst-Walter Erpenbach, a Cologne-based registered nurse and committed smoker, told DW-WORLD. "I'm addicted."
Rather than quit he would simply have to find different ways to deal with the higher prices, he added. "First I'll try the cheap no-name brands they sell at (discount supermarket) Aldi, they are at least 70 cents cheaper than the brand name cigarettes," he said. "I can still pay that. And I know a guy who can get whole cartons of cigarettes for €20. I don't know where he gets them, I think they come from Ukraine or Slovakia, but I don't ask. Somebody knows somebody who gets them. That's the way it goes."