WHO criticises lax German smoking laws in annual report

WHO criticises lax German smoking laws in annual report

The WHO has published its ninth annual report on global tobacco consumption, and Germany has not fared well when it comes to implementing preventative policies over the past 15 years.

Smoking is declining globally, WHO report reveals

The latest edition of the WHO’s global tobacco epidemic report has revealed that smoking is becoming less popular around the world.

According to the 2023 report, only 5 percent of the world’s population were protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws back in 2008, when the first annual report was published. Now, this figure has increased to over one quarter.

Though smoking “continues to be one of the top preventable causes of premature deaths," the report writes, the WHO predicts that without anti-smoking regulations adopted in the past 15 years, there would be “an estimated 300 million more smokers in the world today."

Today, 5,6 billion people live in countries that have implemented some regulations to restrict tobacco consumption and since 2007, the global prevalence of smoking has dropped from 22,8 percent to 17 percent in 2021.

WHO says smoking is still worryingly popular in Germany

In this year’s report, Mauritius and the Netherlands joined Brazil and Turkey as the only four countries in the world which have implemented all of the WHO-recommended regulations to limit the prevalence of smoking. These include measures to protect people from secondhand smoke, offering help to smokers who would like to quit, raising taxes and banning the advertisement of tobacco products.

Though the German government recently announced plans to ban smoking in cars when a child or person who is pregnant is present, the overarching verdict from the WHO is that German politicians need to do more to protect people from smoke.

Director for Health Promotion at the WHO Rüdiger Krech said that the current smoking policy in Germany is of “great concern”. Across the federal republic buying cigarettes and tobacco is still affordable. While there is an indoor smoking ban, many bars and nightclubs allow customers to smoke, and though smoking is prohibited on public transport it is allowed in most other public spaces, such as in parks, outside shops or on the street.

Krech, who is German, pointed out that such lax attitudes to smoking in public spaces “cause a lot of suffering and leads to unnecessarily high pressure on the [German] health system." Krech added that Germany’s indoor smoking ban should be more consistently enforced and that politicians should pick up the pace when it comes to protecting residents from smoke.

Thumb image credit: Ground Picture /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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