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I is very interesting how people with focused ideologies can make such drastic changes in their life. A good example is Hitler being quite the smoker, ending up smoking even forty cigarettes a day, and then deciding out of nowhere that this wasn’t good for his health, nor for that of those around him. At the time, people were not aware of second-hand smoke, but it seems that Hitler was concerned for those around him as well as the Aryan population.

However, Hitler did not publicly mention that he stopped smoking for his or anyone else well being, but because he realized that smoking was a “waste of money.” Even if in the early days of his political career, he created his own cigarette company as well as a brand that he used to manipulate the public into winning more voters for the Nazi party. Therefore we can assume that he showed (in an indirect way) that smoking had helped him become the leader of Germany and also a bit richer.

Unemployed SA men, at least three of them smoking, in 1932, three years after the SA began manufacturing cigarettes. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

To get a better understanding we will have a look at how Hitler used smoking to gain power and how he used this anti-smoking campaign to gain even more political power and support from the German as well as the Austrian public.

Sturm Cigarette Company

An advertisement from January 1932, when the Nazis were trying to win power, showing a uniformed SA member, the Nazi hakenkreuz, the SA logo, and an anti-monopoly political slogan. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Sturm Cigarette Company was initially created by the Nazy party in 1932 in order to provide the SA (Sturmabteilung “Storm Detachment”) members cigarettes as well as to fund the Nazi Party from the sales it made to the public. The way the SA were promoting their cigarettes was very interesting as they were using violence in order to remove the competitors and fear in order to make the public buy their cigarette brand.

The other use for this cigarette company was for Hitler to promote his fascist ideology and Nazy party through the use of political messages that were included with every pack of Sturm cigarettes. The promotion of these cigarettes was also done through posters that mainly included information about the Nazi party and the SA members rather than actual information about the cigarettes themselves.

Smoking is quite an old habit, however, smoking was banned for a very long time and it wasn’t something accessible for everyone as it was quite expensive due to the long manufacturing process. In 1840, the Prussian government banned smoking in public locations, meaning a huge decrease in firms that were making cigarettes, therefore cigarettes had to be imported, making them even more inaccessible to the public.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the manufacturing of cigarettes evolved with the integration of an automated manufacturing process, making cigarettes much cheaper, therefore more accessible to the public. With the roaring 1920s in full swing, smoking was becoming a cool habit among the public, with most people that could afford cigarettes smoking at least one pack a day, translating to very high demand.

As the Nazi party made smoking very affordable, even for poor citizens, they were getting political support from the public. It is not known for sure, but it can be argued that this is how Hitler got a good portion of his votes in the 1938 elections.

The world’s first anti-smoking campaign

“Tobacco capital” raining down to spoil the people’s health (Volksgesundheit), labor-power (Arbeitskraft), demographic political goals (Bevolkerungspolitische Ziele), and the wealth of the people (Volksvermogen). (Source: Reine Luft 1941;23:117)

Hitler as a political leader now had to show that he cared about his Aryan population by having them stop smoking, this would certainly show that he cared about their well-being. In other words, gaining even more support and further indoctrinated the population with his fascist ideology and regime. This is why he based his campaign on the health problems caused by smoking, “so many excellent men have been lost to tobacco poisoning”. In 1942, he promised that after the war, he would ban the use of tobacco in the military.

He even had research done about how smoking can lower a women’s fertility. This also gave a bad reputation for women within Germany as women who smoked were seen as unsuitable wives and mothers. From the end of 1938, a new law was stated that actually didn’t allow women to purchase tobacco, with the exception of some women working in war factories who were offered tobacco as part of their daily ration.

The principle behind the whole campaign and behind many regulations that were set by the Nazi government was Nichtraucherschutz (the protection of non-smokers), showing that at least Germany was aware at the time of passive smoking. Hitler knew that chaos would be created by totally banning tobacco, therefore he made many regulations that banned smoking in public, as well as in small households where passive smoking could take place.

The campaign got so serious that even the bomb shelters had separate rooms for smokers and non-smokers. The Reichpost (German Post service from 1938) imposed that smoking should be banned in Germany, with many political supporters agreeing, but many of the leaders from the Nazi political party still being heavy smokers (except Hitler). Hitler was actually trying to make them stop, especially Heinrich Himmler who developed health complications from smoking as well as Eva Braun as she was constantly smoking, even though she was meant to be the image of the model German woman.

The campaign went so far that it even got coupled with the fascist Nazy ideology by telling the public that smoking was an unhealthy vice spread by the Jewish population. This also went along with the ideology of the Aryan race and how as the “purest race” the German population should not infect itself with tobacco.

You could say that Hitler’s smoking campaign was quite efficient as from 1940 until 1944, 23.4% of the German population stopped smoking.

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