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Urgent call for comprehensive tobacco advertising ban

No. 29 | 02/07/2015 | by MPL / Sel

Tobacco advertising is ubiquitous in this country. Germany is almost the only country – besides Bulgaria – where large-sized tobacco advertising on billboards is still legal. In addition to traditional marketing, the tobacco industry also seeks direct contact with young people in order to entice them to smoke, according to a new report by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg.


Tobacco companies claim that advertising does not tempt people to smoke and that its goal is solely to maintain brand loyalty. However, it is a fact that tobacco advertising makes young people more aware about smoking and may encourage them to experiment with cigarettes and, ultimately, take up smoking. In 2012, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) revealed the marketing strategies used by the German tobacco industry in a comprehensive report. In a new report, it now documents how the tobacco industry makes intensive use of all available marketing channels and increasingly targets potential customers directly.

For example, tobacco companies establish personal contact at events that are particularly popular among the youth, such as festivals and parties. At large music festivals, they attract young visitors to separate relaxation areas, where they promote their products. They use sweepstakes and giveaways to extract personal data from visitors. After the events, they directly mail these young people free samples, sweepstakes and social media features. The circle of potential new customers is then systematically enlarged by the recruitment of friends. Despite age verification measures, which are carried out fairly strictly, the fact that tobacco companies also reach youth via these marketing strategies cannot be avoided.

Even though tobacco companies market legal products, these are highly dangerous to one’s health if used as intended. “The permanent and prevalent presence of tobacco advertising paints a picture that smoking is a desirable lifestyle, particularly for young people,” says Dr. Martina Pötschke-Langer, head of the Cancer Prevention Unit at the DKFZ. “In this way, tobacco advertising counteracts the current trend towards non-smoking and undermines health policy efforts to lower the number of smokers within the population.”

Only a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising that encompasses any kind of advertising or promotion can help prevent youth from taking up smoking and lower tobacco consumption in the general population. By signing and ratifying the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Germany entered into a legally binding obligation to take far-reaching tobacco control measures. One of these measures was to introduce a comprehensive tobacco advertising ban by 2010. Therefore, the German government is long overdue in fulfilling its task of prohibiting advertising of a product that is dangerous to one’s health.

The report, entitled “Direktmarketing für Tabakprodukte in Deutschland” (in German) (Direct marketing of tobacco products in Germany), is available for download here.

With more than 3,000 employees, the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is Germany’s largest biomedical research institute. DKFZ scientists identify cancer risk factors, investigate how cancer progresses and develop new cancer prevention strategies. They are also developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to questions relating to cancer.

To transfer promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improve the prognosis of cancer patients, the DKFZ cooperates with excellent research institutions and university hospitals throughout Germany:

  • National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT, 6 sites)
  • German Cancer Consortium (DKTK, 8 sites)
  • Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) Heidelberg
  • Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI-TRON Mainz) - A Helmholtz Institute of the DKFZ
  • DKFZ-Hector Cancer Institute at the University Medical Center Mannheim
  • National Cancer Prevention Center (jointly with German Cancer Aid)
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.


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