The World Health Organization wants to ban women from drinking alcohol

The WHO proposes a ban on alcohol for women of childbearing age, according to the draft Global Plan of Action against Alcohol for 2022-2030.

According to the document, the parties should raise public awareness of the dangers of alcoholic beverages, but special attention should be paid to children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age. This is due to the fact that alcohol consumption before and during childbirth can lead to the development of various diseases and disorders, as well as to the emergence of problems with social behavior and the ability to learn, the text says. It is noted that this also has a negative impact on the physical and psychological well-being of the mother.

In this regard, the WHO concludes that the best option would be for women to abstain from alcohol altogether.

These statements provoked widespread criticism among people on social networks, and the organization itself was accused of sexism.

80 years ago, in 1941, Reich Propaganda Office and the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene could not stop German women from smoking.

Anyway, it is estimated some 20,000 German women avoided lung cancer deaths thanks to Nazi paternalism, which discouraged women from smoking, often with police force.

Women in Thuringia aged under 25 years were not allowed to smoke in restaurants. In contrast, a similar poster in the region of Emscher-Lippe (Northern Ruhr Basin) in 1941 instructing the restaurant owner to forbid women to smoke, even to ‘make use of his domestic authority’, was criticized for not being approved by any district office (Gaudienststelle). Together with other examples of ‘bad propaganda’, it was brought to the attention of the Health Minister responsible for Reich-wide regulation. In some parts of Germany, there were a number of unapproved anti-tobacco activities (e.g. a poster in Mecklenburg announced that the Führer deplored smoking and smokers damaged the power of the German people) as well as statements by certain individuals (e.g. Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front, who had trained in chemistry at Jena) or organizations (e.g. German Women’s Alliance for Alcohol Free Culture – Deutscher Frauenbund für alkoholfreie Kultur, etc.). Many of these local initiatives were often so exceptional that they attracted widespread media attention. Thus, a prohibition of smoking in public by boys and girls in Mecklenburg, with breaches punished by 2 weeks in prison or a fine of 150 Reichsmark, was even reported in the British ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper on 1 June 1936. Again, many initiatives had more to do with the status of women than with smoking as such. For example, members of the police force in the town of Erfurt were instructed to remind women smoking in public of their duties as German women and mothers, which echoed the verbal abuse of women in Berlin who wore cosmetics.22 These measures were not endorsed by the Nazi leadership and were only local actions.

Thus, on 5 July 1941, an urgent letter was sent by telex from the Reich Propaganda Office (in agreement with the Party Chancellery) to all chief administrators of districts, members of the National Socialist Organization for Propaganda and People’s Enlightenment, and liaison officers in important organizations, establishing guidelines on Reich-consistent anti-tobacco propaganda. These guidelines, which demonstrate a somewhat tolerant view of smoking, were summarized in nine bullet points(Box 1).

Box 1 Reich Propaganda Department guidelines on anti-smoking campaigns, issued on 5 July 1941

  • The magazine Reine Luft must give up its combative character and its polemic tenor. It should become the organ for scientific research and public education about the dangers of tobacco.
  • Physicians must give consistent messages to the population.
  • All anti-tobacco propaganda directed at the public must be approved.
  • The anti-tobacco campaign aimed at young people will be conducted according to the existent plans which are in accordance with the Reichsjugendführung (magazines, educational letters for in-house meetings, illustrations, brochures).
  • A very careful campaign should be directed at women, in particular addressing those who are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Magazines for young people, women, physicians and sports may be used more extensively for health education.
  • There are no objections to propaganda in support of a further ban on smoking in work places, assemblies, meetings, sports fields and similar.
  • Tobacco advertising by the manufacturers will be reduced incrementally.
  • Campaigns at district level are only permitted within the framework of these guidelines.

This letter was also addressed to the German Alliance for Combating the Dangers of Tobacco (Deutscher Bund zur Bekämpfung der Tabakgefahren), founded after the Nazis came to power. It specified that proposals to use the press for anti-smoking campaigns, to ban women from smoking in restaurants, and to restrict tobacco adverts to statements of manufacturer, brand name and price were not approved by the party. However, it also noted that ‘if the Alliance wishes to be consistent with existing Reich anti-tobacco propaganda’, it could do ‘valuable educational work’.


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