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A German crusade to stop smoking

Did you know how cigarettes trigger you to smoke? This is the explanation by Ivan Pavlov, a physiologist who studied changes in behavior in the early 1900s. One of his observations was that dogs normally salivate just as they are given food. In one of his experiments, he rang a bell just before he fed his dogs. Subsequently, the dogs began to associate and link the sound of the bell with food. Soon, they salivated even if he rang the bell without giving them any food. The dogs had learned “The bell rings means I’m going to be fed!” Pavlov describes this phenomenon as "a conditioned response".

The same "conditioned response" or the term that we prefer to use “association”, takes place with you in regards to your smoking.  After smoking for many years, your daily routine become associated with smoking and sets off the urge to smoke.  For example, if you smoke every time you drive, just getting into the car can turn on the association to smoke, as if your brain tells you, “I’m now in the car its smoking time!”   The same is true if you smoke immediately after you wake up each morning, you mind associates waking up with smoking.  Understanding and dealing with these strong associations is one of the most important parts of quitting smoking.  Because years after you’ve quit you could still get those same urges to smoke when you first wake up.  

There are striking parallels between the Nazi 'war on cancer' and the New Labour crusade against smoking.  In Nazi Germany, every individual had “a duty to be healthy”; then to make sure that people fulfilled this duty, the government insisted on “the primacy of the public good over individual liberties”.  Today Tony Blair acknowledges that smokers - and non-smokers both have rights. More importantly they both have responsibilities to each other, to their families, to the whole community and themselves.

To ensure that smokers meet these responsibilities, the government is planning further bans and restrictions on their activities. In the 1930’s in Germany it was the medical profession that was playing the leading role in the state campaign to restrict smoking. In Britain today, doctors again have provided the medical legitimacy and moral authority for state regulation of individual behavior.

There are of course some major differences between the Nazi and New Labour anti-smoking campaigns. The anti-Semitic themes of the 1930s are missing today, and also many of Germany's leading anti-tobacco activists were also war criminals.

The consequences, of an authoritarian public health policy for science is another difference.  In Nazi Germany pioneering scientific research took place into the health effects of tobacco, in Britain today that epidemiology has been reduced in the name of political self serving.

There has been a obvious reluctance among British medical authorities to acknowledge German achievements in research in regards to the health effects of smoking. Yet according to Robert Proctor's authoritative account, The Nazi War on Cancer, up to the Second World War, 'German tobacco epidemiology was the most advanced in the world'. In 1929 Franz Lickint, a physician from Chemnitz, published the first statistical evidence that suggested a link between cigarettes and lung cancer. He went on to become a leading figure against smoking in the Nazi era.

Campaigns such as these have been launched in Germany in an attempt to stop smoking.  These are the same efforts done way back in the Nazi era just to let the people know the risks of getting lung cancer. Today there are still numerous campaigns out there to stop smoking. They can give you almost all of the help you need to quit.  The only way for them to work is you need to get yourself involved.

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