Germany: Minister plans ban on smoking in cars with children


GERMANY: Health Ministry proposals would prohibit smoking in vehicles carrying children and pregnant women. The ban could include e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and cannabis.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is pushing for a ban to prevent smoking in cars where minors and pregnant women are passengers, German media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported on Friday.

RND, as well as other outlets, cited a draft by Lauterbach that will be coordinated with other ministries before he presents it to the Cabinet.

Smoking in cars is not currently illegal in Germany. The plan, which is part of Lauterbach’s draft proposal to legalize cannabis, aims to expand the existing Non-Smokers Protection Act.

What is in the proposed ban?

The expansion of the smoking ban, which already applies in public transport, is intended to “ensure the necessary protection from passive smoking for this particularly vulnerable group of people,” according to the draft cited by RND.

Smoking in cars has been proven to pose higher risks due to the small space volume.

“According to confirmed studies, secondhand smoking also causes many serious illnesses and deaths, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sudden infant death syndrome,” the draft said.

Many studies have also established a link between secondhand smoking and lung cancer, Lauterbach said.

The draft also includes applying the ban to tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and cannabis — although such details could be changed during discussions with ministers.

A government statement said a ban on smoking in cars with children would be “unconditionally welcomed.” But with cars representing private, personal space, it warned of constitutional concerns over any such ban.

Ban on smoking in cars around the world

Many countries around the world have already had such bans in place for years, including Australia, France, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and some states in the US.

Since 2019, several German states have launched initiatives to ban smoking in cars with children. Violations could be punished with fines of up to €3,000 ($3,265).

The upper house of the German parliament, or Bundesrat, decided in March 2022 to introduce a corresponding bill in the lower house, the Bundestag.

The northwestern state of Lower Saxony had cited the dangers of smoking in cars as reported by the German Cancer Research Centre, stating that the concentration of tobacco in vehicles could be five times “as high as in an average smoky pub.”—DW

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