When was smoking banned in cinemas?


For a few weeks now, gruesome photos on cigarette packs have been spoiling smokers' desire to smoke. They are a particularly impressive measure against tobacco consumption, but by no means the first. The history of bans and campaigns against the blue haze in Germany goes back well into the previous century.

The party atmosphere in the gleaming white eighties apartment is at its lowest point. Disappointed, the hostess rushes into the kitchen with a tray full of ashtrays and reveals herself to her friend: "Look: all cigarettes are only half smoked!" The guests are dissatisfied with the butts on offer. But the friend knows what to do. She spontaneously opens a cupboard full of bright red packets of cigarettes. “Here, take this!” The celebration is saved and all guests are smoking satisfied.

These scenes from an advertising spot for cigarettes from the early 1990s seem grotesque - not only because such a spot would no longer be allowed on television today. Smoking is no longer considered good form. The advertising film shows how far smoking has disappeared from public space in the past few decades. The displacement of the glowing stem began much earlier, however. We have summarized the most important stages:


A cigarette kills slowly - or very quickly. If soldiers set fire to one in the trenches of World War I, it could mean certain death. The glowing embers that lit up with every move attracted enemy snipers. The soldiers were therefore forbidden to smoke in the trench.

1930s and 1940s

The national socialist idea of ​​racial and physical purity gave rise to the world's largest movement against smoking at the time. Their most staunch advocate: Adolf Hitler. Despite propaganda, annual consumption in the German Reich rose from 570 to 900 cigarettes per capita between 1932 and 1939. Therefore, at the end of the 1930s, the NSDAP tightened its non-smoking policy. The focus was on the “German woman” who, according to the Nazi ideology, was primarily a mother. Pregnant women no longer got coupons for tobacco; Women under 25 couldn't buy either. In addition, the 60 largest cities in the Reich banned smoking on trams in 1941.

From July 1943 onwards, people under the age of 18 were no longer allowed to smoke in public. In the military, the cigarette ration was limited to six cigarettes per day. If soldiers waived, they received chocolate or additional food. The consequence: both soldiers and the civilian population smoked significantly less.

After 1945, advertising for non-smokers subsided. The economic resurgence of Germany brought with it a new desire for consumption - and thus also for smoking.




It was not until the beginning of the 1970s that the Federal Republic of Germany began to concern itself with the protection of non-smokers. An important debate took place on June 18, 1974 in the Bundestag in Bonn. The result: the reform of food law and a ban on advertising tobacco products on television and radio.

Since 1972, the Federal Minister for Youth, Family and Health, Katharina Focke, has been the champion of this change. The Social Democrat had smoked a chain until she took office. In the GDR there was a smoking ban in restaurants at lunchtime and there was a working group on promoting non-smoking. Even so, the tobacco industry of the workers-and-peasant state increased its production.

Between 1970 and 1990 it doubled production to 30 billion glow sticks. In 1990, Der Spiegel commented: “The more the people became displeased, the more cigarettes were produced”. At least the TV inspectors were role models in the GDR: They weren't allowed to smoke spicy “Salem” at work.


"Smoking causes cancer" - on January 22nd, 1997 the Federal Constitutional Court finally made it clear that cigarettes make you sick and that the warning label on the package is absolutely necessary. The court also confirmed the upper limit for tar in cigarette smoke, which was also imposed by the federal government: twelve milligrams from December 31, 1997.

In 1998 Lufthansa responded to customer requests and banned smoking on all flights. Two thirds of all passengers would be in favor of smoke-free flights, the company said.

In the same year, a bill to protect non-smokers in public failed in the Bundestag. 51 percent of the MPs voted against the draft introduced by the Green MPs Gerald Häfner, Volker Beck and Cem Özdemir.


From 2003 the European Union banned the "light" cigarette. Since then, cigarette manufacturers have not been allowed to advertise their products as “mild” or “light”. A few months later, large, clearly legible warnings on packets of cigarettes became mandatory. In addition, the member states could now force deterrent images on packs. Germany waived this option.

In 2003, the Federal Republic of Germany also took action against a European advertising ban in print media and at sporting events and failed. In 2007, Germany still got a non-smoking law. Among other things, smoking was prohibited on buses, trains and authorities from now on. The federal states followed in 2008. They issued smoking bans in public buildings and in restaurants - with many exceptions, however. That is why Bayern followed suit in 2010. Almost two thirds of the people there voted for a smoking ban with no exceptions.


On May 20, 2016, a modified law for tobacco products came into force in Germany, which is based on an EU directive. The most important change: "shock photos" of sick lungs and rotting feet on cigarette packets have been mandatory since the end of May. However, manufacturers have the right to sell remaining stocks. In addition, the law includes a ban on flavors and a restriction on advertising for e-cigarettes.


From 2020 onwards, the cigarette industry will lose one of its last instruments for customer acquisition: The federal government has decided to ban cigarette advertising in cinemas and on posters. It will certainly not be the last measure to suppress the glowing stalk. In France, for example, from 2017 cigarettes will only be allowed to be sold in neutral packs.