H/T Rose for reminding us of Tobacco policies in Nazi Germany: not as simple as it seems, published in 2008.
The tobacco industry and its supporters have linked contemporary proposals for tobacco control measures with Nazi policies. … tobacco control activists being attacked as fanatics while tobacco control measures widely accepted elsewhere are presented as unimaginable totalitarian attacks on individual liberty, comparable to those during the fascist regime in the 1930s and 1940s. For example, a search on the pro-smoking website, http://www.forces.org yields over 200 hits with the word ‘Hitler’.
If nothing else, it shows that Tobacco Control is a bit worried about reminders of its origins in the Nazi era (something that has only emerged in the past 20 years), and seeks to muddy the waters:
While there was considerable opposition to smoking in Nazi Germany, there was no consistent Nazi policy to combat smoking, and what did exist built on pre-existing policies. Although extreme measures were taken in isolated localities or by overzealous party members, there was a marked ambivalence to tobacco control at the highest levels. Many policies were contradictory; measures were often not enforced, and cigarettes were actively distributed to ‘deserving’ groups.
Policies on tobacco in Nazi Germany are much more complex than is often represented by those who invoke them to condemn those seeking to reduce the burden of disease caused by smoking.
I doubt if there was any more public opposition to smoking in Nazi Germany than anywhere else: the zealots, then as now, were mostly in the medical profession and the Nazi party. And what “pre-existing policies” were there? Were there smoking bans in the Weimar Republic?
Yet I believe it’s true to say that there was no consistent Nazi antismoking policy. There were a number of piecemeal measures. After all, many top Nazis – Goering and Goebbels, for example – were themselves smokers.
Nevertheless, there was a great deal of “research” carried out in Nazi Germany on smoking, typically using questionnaires. Also the notion of “passive smoking” was introduced at this time.
In many ways, Nazi antismoking methodology and policies became the models for the post-war era. Doll and Hill’s two post-war studies used the same questionnaire-based methodology as the Nazis. And the Nazi notion of “passive smoking” was also subsequently revived. And Nazi-style smoking bans in public places were introduced:
Under the supervision of the Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research, the ban was imposed in every public building and public space, including air-raid shelters, with Hitler even personally intervening in 1944 to ensure it was extended to trains and buses in order to protect young female conductors.
Post-war antismokers simply picked up where the Nazis left off, and have since proceeded to out-Nazi the Nazis at their own game. Modern smoking bans are far more draconian than any of the Nazi bans.
Furthermore, while many previous antismoking crusades were moral and religious in their approach, modern antismoking campaigners share the Nazi obsession with Public Health. We now have as much of a duty to be healthy as any German living in Nazi Germany. And the Nazi persecutions of Jews and Gypsies were themselves Public Health measures taken against “racial poisons.”
Robert Proctor, author of the Nazi War on Cancer, has tried to justify Nazi antismoking “science” by arguing that, while the Nazis did a lot of bad science – e.g. Nazi racial theory -, they actually did a lot of good science too – giving as an example the V2 rocket -, and that their antismoking science belongs in the latter “good” category. Unfortunately for Proctor, the development of the V2 largely proceeded despite Hitler and the Nazi party – so it can hardly be classed as an example of Nazi science at all. The V2 was anyway a piece of technological innovation. Nazi antismoking science had zero technological or innovative content, and furthermore shared the same Public Health ethos that underpinned Nazi racial theory. Furthermore, while Hitler neglected rocket technology, he put 100,000 Reichsmarks of his own money into the Institute for the Struggle Against Tobacco Hazards at Jena University, an institution whose very name presupposes that there are ‘hazards’ associated with tobacco, and which prefigures that ubiqitous kind of “research” which first announces its predetermined conclusions and then looks for evidence to support those conclusions. Nazi antismoking science and Nazi racial science were both ideological “sciences”, and peas from the same eugenic pod, and as such not true sciences at all.
It may be truthfully said that, while Nazi Germany was defeated long ago, and Nazi racial theory consigned to the garbage dump of history, Nazi antismoking ideology and methodologies and policies now flourish in the 21st century under the guise of their direct lineal descendants, Tobacco Control and Public Health, deep in the heart of the WHO and the global medical establishment.
Hitler would be proud of them.
P.S. I make that 6 mentions of “Hitler”, and 35 of “Nazi”. Oh wait,… make that 7 and 36. I claim my Godwin Medal!