A non-smoking initiative wants to enforce in court that warnings about smoking are given more prominence on tobacco vending machines. In the opinion of the Pro Rauchfrei association, the previous information on vending machines is not enough. These would either have to be attached to every selection button – or the buttons would have to have a visually neutral design, i.e. without a trademark or brand color, said the board of the Pro Rauchfrei association, Stephan Weinberger, to the dpa.

“Warnings are important so that they deter potential beginners from smoking and so that the machines do not appear attractive,” said Weinberger before a court hearing this Tuesday in Düsseldorf. Sentences like “Smoking kills” are still found casually on the side of vending machines, where they do not inhibit the impulse to buy. But that is required by law.

Around 85,000 cigarette machines

The association’s lawsuit before the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court (file number I-20 UKl 2/24) is directed against tobaccoland Automatengesellschaft mbH

According to industry information, around 6 percent of cigarettes in Germany are sold via vending machines. The packs they contain are printed with warnings and shock photos. But from the perspective of critics, this is not enough to satisfy the warning requirement. After all, shock images of the boxes still in the machine are usually not visible from the outside.

There has been a dispute over warnings on machines for years

How strongly the warning about health risks should be displayed on the outside of a vending machine has been a source of controversy for years. In 2017, Pro Rauchfrei filed a lawsuit. After going through the courts, the Federal Court of Justice supported the non-smoking association in October 2023.

“Despite the Karlsruhe ruling, machine operators have not given in, so we are now demanding that the specified implementation be achieved by means of an interim injunction,” said club board member Weinberger. In his opinion, it is also not enough that the warning on digital machines only appears after a keypad has been pressed. “This doesn’t inhibit the impulse to buy – but that’s exactly what the legislation needs to happen.”

The court wants to give an assessment of the facts today, and a verdict is expected to follow in a few weeks.