Unfiltered: Conflicts over Tobacco Policy and Public Health

By Eric A. Feldman; Ronald Bayer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
7
Between Paternalism and Voluntarism:
Tobacco Consumption and Tobacco
Control in Germany

Günter Frankenberg


The Overlapping Discourses on Smoking

Even before the world—first New, then Old, with Germany being part of the latter—had capitulated to the “wonder plant tobacco,” four overlapping discourses determined the development of tobacco production and consumption within the German territories,1 and shaped the social construction of smoking there. Civilizatory discourse focused on tobacco consumption as a status symbol and matter of taste and lifestyle. It was intricately linked with the fiscal discourse on tobacco manufacture, commerce, and consumption as a source of state income—from taxing what was considered conspicuous consumption and luxury. The regulatory aspects were captured by the politicolegal discourse, which focused on the dangers of smoking as a public pastime. The medical discourse was concerned with the pharmacological properties of tobacco and with smoking as a threat to private and public health.

After the Huguenots introduced tobacco from France to their German places of refuge in the seventeenth century, the tobacco herb soon came to be perceived as a cure-all in the medical discourse. Throughout the century, numerous treatises recommended it as a panacea against such diverse illnesses as infections (of all kinds), wounds, fever, headaches, asthma and other pulmonary diseases, and constipation and other gastrointestinal ailments.2 The universal medicinal effects ascribed to the tobacco herb were also reflected in the variety of forms in which it could be used or applied—for example, compresses, enemas, ointments, powders, and juice.

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