The Nazi Anti-Smoking Campaign and the Current Day Anti-Smoking Campaign:
A Duty To Be Healthy
ECD: I find it fascinating comparing it [The Nazi Campaign against smoking] to what's going on nowadays - I mean, the Nazi regime was of the opinion that people didn't have the right to do as they wished with their bodies, they had a duty to be fit and strong and healthy. So do you see any similarities with attitudes today, even if it is for different reasons?
Chris: Well it is for different reasons, I mean the Nazi idea was a fundamentally anti-individualist doctrine, obviously, and it did value the whole of society above the individual. You know the reason for that, the reason they wanted to keep everybody fit and healthy was largely so they could fight in wars and in the case of women it was so that they could be good mothers to the Aryan race. And the Nazis explicitly, if incorrectly, viewed tobacco as a genetic poison. So that was their thinking on it.
Because, of course they didn't value the autonomy of the individual, they didn't think twice about bringing in these restrictions on people smoking.
The current situation is different in some profound ways. But there is still a duty to be healthy, as it were, particularly in countries where you have socialised health care. In Britain it is the NHS, it is the idea that people are becoming a drain on the NHS, that smoking diseases have to be paid for by everybody and therefore everybody has a stake in stopping people smoking.
ECD: Which is ridiculous, because smokers pay a fortune, a lot more than the NHS cost.
Chris: Well exactly, it's amazing how long that myth of smokers being a drain on society has lasted, particularly in places like Britain where cigarette taxes bring in so much more money than the cost of treating these smoking diseases... and all these calculations always ignore the fundamental fact that if people aren't dying of a smoking related disease they just die of another disease which will probably cost as least as much to pay for anyway. But it's a powerful message because it gives people a reason to get involved in other peoples lives.
ECD: We have this obsession with being healthy and not dying. We [ECD] are of the opinion that it should be people's choice. Of course, this is also the reason why there has been such a strong emphasis on passive smoking ...
Chris: Of course, this is exactly the same thing.