Tabaré Vazquez †
We would like to join all in expressing our grief on receiving the information on the death of Dr. Tabaré Vazquez. We still remember meeting him on his visit to Berlin in 2017, he gave us so much hope then. He showed us how the fight against the tobacco industry could be won. Johannes Spatz, speaking for all members of Forum Rauchfrei
Tobacco Retailers in Germany hiding health warnings
Tobacco retailers in Germany are more and more using so-called “product cards”, small cards made from cardboard or plastic in most cases provided by tobacco manufacturers, to hide the packs in the shelves behind the counter so the health warnings are not visible
The Tobacco Products Directive however calls for the visibility of the health warnings when tobacco products are placed on the market: “Member States shall ensure that the health warnings on a unit packet and any outside packaging are irremovably printed, indelible and fully visible, including not being partially or totally hidden or interrupted by tax stamps, price marks, security features, wrappers, jackets, boxes, or other items, when tobacco products are placed on the market.”
The Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture which is in charge of ruling tobacco products in Germany states that this is illegal but says also that local authorities must examine case by case if the law is violated or not. The cigarette manufacturers’ association says it’s legal to hide the warnings as the TPD regulates products and not the way they are presented.
Forum Rauchfrei has asked the ministry to clarify the situation and to inform retailers about the illegality of hiding health warnings when presenting tobacco products. Meanwhile we have reported numerous violations to authorities in several German cities.
Worldwide protest against tobacco trade fair in Dortmund
Open letter to North Rhine-Westphalia’s premier Hannelore Kraft
Many renowned physicians as well as German and international medical associations today addressed North Rhine-Westphalia’s premier Hannelore Kraft in an open letter, asking her to see to the shut-down of the world’s biggest tobacco trade fair “InterTabac” in the German city of Dortmund, which is to begin on September 16th. The open letter was started off by Forum Rauchfrei, Transparency International Germany and the Cancer Advice Center and Contact Point for Healthcare Self-Help Groups in Aachen.
Among the co-signatories from North Rhine-Westphalia are:
• Dr. med. Burkhard Lawrenz, chairman of the Association of Children and Adolescent Physicians in Westfalen-Lippe
• Prof. Dr. Bernd Bertram, board member of the Medical Association North Rhine
• Prof. Dr. Dirk Schadendorf, director of the West German Tumor Center, Essen
• Dr. med. Helmut Weber, MR a. D., regional chairman of the Protection League of Non-Smokers North Rhine-Westphalia
• Prof. Dr. Oliver Razum, dean of the Department of Public Health, University of Bielefeld
In a letter to Forum Rauchfrei the president of the Medical Association Saarland, Dr. Josef Mischo, agreed that the organization of a trade fair is “counterproductive” to the effort to curb the use of tobacco.
Dr. Theodor Windhorst, president of the Medical Association Westfalen-Lippe, had already called for an end of “InterTabac” last year. In a letter to North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister he wrote: “In my view an event like InterTabac is contradicting the aim to protect non-smokers.”
“This tobacco trade fair brings endless suffering to the world,” says Johannes Spatz, physician and spokesman of Forum Rauchfrei. “It is the state’s duty to fight tobacco consumption and cancer. But by organizing this promotional event it achieves the opposite,” he says. As owner of the Westfalenhallen Dortmund GmbH the city is directly responsible for promoting the use of tobacco.
“The conflict of interest becoming manifest with the tobacco trade fair must be made transparent and be brought to an end,” says Dr. Angela Spelsberg, head of Transparency International Germany’s workgroup on public health. She adds: “By authorizing the tobacco trade fair in Dortmund the state of North Rhine-Westphalia clearly violates the world’s first global health agreement “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)”, which Germany joined in 2004.”
“Dortmund’s mayor and North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister have both denied the responsibility for the trade fair up to this day,” says Spatz. “We shall see if the premier will do the same.” The fact that the city of Dortmund is offensively marketing products from which according to WHO six million people die each year is a full-blown scandal.
At international level representatives of numerous health science and tobacco control organizations have participated in the protest. Among them are Michael Moore, president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations and Laurent Huber, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), one of the leading non-governmental tobacco control organizations of the world.
Forum Rauchfrei has already announced a protest rally in front of Dortmund’s Westfalenhallen for September 17th. Until then a response from the premier is expected.
Open Letter to Hannelore Kraft (English)
Forum Rauchfrei congratulates Uruguay’s president Tabaré Vázquez
In a letter to the president of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, Forum Rauchfrei offered congratulations on the country’s victory over tobacco giant Philip Morris and thanked president Vázquez for his longstanding and unfailing efforts in the field of tobacco control.
His Excellency , Tabaré Vázquez, President of the Republic of Uruguay
we would very much like to congratulate you on Uruguay’s victory over tobacco giant Philip Morris and to express our deeply felt joy about the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes’ decision in favour of your country and in favour of the protection of the health and lives of the Uruguayan people.
We feel grateful for your country’s fight for a decision, which will doubtlessly have worldwide consequences. Without your determination and endurance with regard to fighting the tobacco epidemic, this victory would not have been possible.
We very much hope that other countries will now follow Uruguay’s example to put the interests of their own people above the interests of the tobacco industry. We especially hope that German politicians, too, will see this event as a turning point. Contemplating our more than fifteen years of working in the field of tobacco control in Germany we must sadly say that we are in great need of a statesman who is willing to fight for a tobacco free world as much as you are.
Spokesman of Forum Rauchfrei
Cigarette company JTI intends to take legal action against Johannes Spatz
Cigarette company Japan Tobacco International Germany (JTI) is threatening to take legal action against Forum Rauchfrei’s spokesman Johannes Spatz, in case he doesn’t confirm in writing, no longer to damage the company’s advertising bills. Spatz is also to take a picture off Forum Rauchfrei’s homepage. The picture shows Spatz tampering with a poster advertising JTI’s cigarette brand Camel.
The text on the website below the picture reads: ”Tobacco ads banned? No chance. Outdoor advertising for tobacco products will be allowed in Germany until the year 2020. All the other European countries abide by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which bans tobacco advertising. We lend a helping hand to politics with a spring cleaning.”
The deadline, which the company has set for submitting a declaration of cease and desist, is ending today. “I will not give in to the tobacco company’s demands”, Johannes Spatz states. In his view a tobacco company, advertising a product from which 121,000 people in Germany die each year, should be held responsible rather than a person protesting against such ads.
“According to Germany’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Act tobacco advertising should have been banned in 2010”, Spatz says. At the same time he criticizes the federal minister for food and agriculture, who is responsible for Germany’s new Tobacco Products Act. The draft bill for this act included a ban on outdoor advertising for 2016. The ban was then postponed until 2020. According to Spatz this delay is completely unjustified. It is exclusively caused by pressure from tobacco lobbyists to whom the government once again condescended.
If a company with a turnover of more than half a billion USD each year presses charges over one damaged advertising bill, this clearly shows how raw their nerves are with regard to an impending advertising ban. “I am looking forward to the announced court proceedings”, says Spatz.
Forum Rauchfrei appeals to Governor of Jakarta: Stop Upcoming Tobacco Trade fair!
Forum Rauchfrei, a tobacco control organization in Germany, today appealed to the governor of Jakarta, to stop the upcoming tobacco trade fair “WT Process and Machinery” in Jakarta. The trade fair, which is planned for April 27th-28th, is the resumption of “World Tobacco Asia 2012” under a new name.
“Organizers of the trade fair are trying to mislead the public,” states Johannes Spatz, spokesman of Forum Rauchfrei. “In 2014 the fair could not be held in Indonesia due to public protests. Now they want to sneak back in. We strongly appeal to the governor of Jakarta, not to let this happen,” says Spatz.
According to the World Health Organization, the consumption of tobacco will cause 6,000,000 premature deaths worldwide this year alone. As smoking prevalence is declining in western countries, the tobacco industry is trying to open up new markets in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Region. It is trying to use Indonesia as its basis for this.
In February 2014 a German company tried to hold a tobacco trade fair called “Intertabac ASIA” in Bali. At that time the organizers wanted to open up the growing Indonesian market for cigarette makers. The trade fair had to be cancelled on short notice due to massive international protest initiated by Forum Rauchfrei.
WT Process and Machinery would bring back a platform for marketing tobacco products in Indonesia, products which kill every second consumer when used as intended. As Germany is the largest exporter of these products worldwide, Forum Rauchfrei feels a special responsibility for trying to prevent this.
New tobacco control law: Little to celebrate in Germany
On February 25th the German Parliament (Bundestag) approved a bill on implementing the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD 2) in Germany. There is little doubt that the federal states will give their required consent on March 18th. The new Tobacco Products Directive will then come into effect in May as specified.
German politicians are celebrating this as a great victory in the fight against tobacco use and congratulate themselves for resisting the tobacco industry’s lobbying pressure. Well, it is a victory, but not for German politicians, or for public health in Germany. Since its first draft appeared in June 2015, the bill has been massively changed due to tobacco industry interference.
- The first draft aimed at combined health warnings for all tobacco products. The new law will make exceptions for cigars and pipe tobacco.
- The first draft aimed at an immediate ban of menthol. A ban on menthol is now postponed until 2020.
- The first draft aimed at applying the new rules to all tobacco products produced in Germany. The new law will allow exceptions for products that will be exported to non-EU countries.
- And finally, the first draft aimed at an immediate ban on outdoor advertising of tobacco products. This was completely removed: an outdoor advertising ban is now scheduled for 2020.
In other words, Germany will do what it has to do according to the TPD 2 and won’t go any further. Before a coming TPD 3 might call for it, Germany will probably not introduce a display ban, a ban on advertising at points of sale, a ban on brand stretching, a ban on tobacco industry sponsorship and plain packs.
German politicians still put the industry’s interests above public health. During the parliamentary debate one of these politicians expressed it this way: ”Only few people know, that 65 percent of all cigarettes consumed in Europe are produced in Germany – in German factories according to German standards, by German workers – and analyzed in German laboratories. I don’t want this to change.”
There really is not much to celebrate in Germany when it comes to tobacco control.
Tobacco industry’s influence on German Tobacco Control Legislation
According to Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Germany is under the obligation to protect itself from the influence of the tobacco industry. How poorly this obligation is met is made obvious by the sheer number of interactions between politicians or ministry officials and tobacco industry representatives. Our – incomplete – summary of contacts shows, up to which point the tobacco industry is able to exert its influence.
British Medical Journal publishes article on physicians‘ protest action against tobacco trade fair in Dortmund
British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control has published an article on German physicians protesting against the world’s leading trade fair for tobacco products, “InterTabac”, in Dortmund, Germany. The tobacco trade fair is organized by a city-owned company and backed by the city’s mayor, thus constituting a blatant breach of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s article 5.3.
Link to Tobacco Control