Tobacco consumption versus health protection

Smoke-free public spaces demanded – no more mask exemptions

09.02.2021 Our respiratory tracts are exposed to multiple pollutants: in addition to emissions from industrial production, motorized traffic, heating, etc., smoking is also the greatest avoidable health risk. The coronavirus has exacerbated this burden for over a year now.

We initially assumed that, at the latest with the compulsory wearing of masks, the tiresome issue of forced smoking in highly frequented public places would no longer be an issue. This expectation was rudely disappointed, a little more every day. Instead of more de facto smoke-free places, more intensive and comprehensive cessation services and, above all, more information about the additional risks of smokers and passive smokers with regard to Covid disease, it is business as usual: trivialization, promotion of smoking or simply ignoring it.

The majority of citizens keep their distance, isolate themselves in private and accept restrictions that threaten their existence. We have even had to give up singing as soon as we are no longer alone. It is all the more shocking when smoking, an already dangerous behavior that has become even more dangerous during the pandemic, is excluded from all caution. A typical example: The Bavarian Ministry of Health (!!) informed one of our members when asked:

Within the scope of the mask requirement of Section 24 (1) of the 11th BayIfSMV, the mouth-nose cover may be removed as a valid reason according to general principles as long as this is necessary for the consumption of food and drink or for the purpose of smoking, Section 1 (2) sentence 1 no. 3 of the 11th BayIfSMV.

However, the regulation in § 1 para. 2 sentence 1 no. 3 of the 11th BayIfSMV is not intended to lead to the continuous consumption of food and drink or to continuous smoking breaks.

Interestingly, the ordinance does not refer to “valid” reasons, but to “compelling” reasons. But how can smoking be considered a compelling or even just a valid (= plausible) reason?

Every second smoker dies prematurely from their addiction, an estimated 120,000-140,000 people a year in Germany alone. There are also several thousand passive smoking victims.
Smoking is associated with a multiple (up to 6 times) increased risk of death from a corona infection.
Taking off and putting on the mask and touching your fingers and lips without washing your hands first jeopardizes protection against infection.
Tobacco smoke in the air that enters the mask increases the damage to health. This certainly also applies to bystanders, as masks unfortunately provide little protection against exposure to tobacco smoke.

Smoking must not jeopardize the effectiveness of the mask requirement: no exceptions for smokers! The most sensible regulation after that is a consistently smoke-free public space with a range of smoking areas where no one else is disturbed. If health protection is so important, if the EU is aiming for a tobacco-free Europe in the next 20 years and if the Federal Government’s Drug Commissioner, Ms. Ludwig, wants to create better cessation services for long-term smokers, then smoke-free places are an important preventive component. The trend must be to denormalize smoking in everyday life instead of encouraging it. Everyone benefits from this, not least the smokers themselves.

More statements on smoking and corona:

No more trivialising the risk of smoking

Protective mask only for non-smokers?

Are you still allowed to smoke? – No!

Infection risk due to smoking