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Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU) Medical Student Leads Anti-Smoking Crusade

News 9-2014 EN

Innovative anti-smoking program founded by JLU medical student Titus Brinker reaches thousands of school children.

Tobacco is the largest cause of preventable disease and death in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  In Germany alone approximately 380 people die every day from tobacco-related disease, translating to an annual death rate of 140,000.  The cost of tobacco use to the German gross national product is enormous, estimated to be more than 40 billion Euros annually.  Inspired by these shocking figures, JLU medical student Titus Brinker decided to do something about it.  Started as a pilot project by Mr. Brinker in 2011, “Aufklärung gegen Tabak” (Education Against Tobacco) now includes 500 participating medical students at 18 universities throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and reached more than 4,000 students during its first year.

It was during an internship at the American university, Texas A&M that Mr. Brinker developed the idea for “Aufklärung gegen Tabak.”  At Texas A&M the tobacco prevention program “Stand Tall Against Tobacco (STAT)” was shown to have a positive influence on preventing tobacco use in young people.  Impressed by the success of STAT, Mr. Brinker developed a program to meet the needs of the German public.  The concept is very simple: Medical students visit German elementary schools and provide pupils (7th graders) with information that they can use to make informed decisions about whether or not to use tobacco.  Emphasis is placed on disadvantages of tobacco use that students can directly relate to, such as decreased athletic performance, cost, and aesthetics. Furthermore, the medical students organize a painting contest and involve patients from their university hospitals in order to let them tell about their own experiences with tobacco addiction. The relatively small age gap between the medical students and the school children makes it more likely that the pupils will view the medical students as positive role models to whom they can relate.

Auklärung gegen Tabak was honored as “Project of the Month” by the Drug Commissioner of the German Federal Government in June 2012 and has been endorsed by German Health Minister Daniel Bahr.  Medical students at four of the five DZL partner centers (ARCN, BREATH, CPC-M, and UGMLC) are program volunteers, and DZL Faculty Members Prof. Werner Seeger, Prof. Wolfgang Kummer, and Prof. Veronika Grau are members of their scientific advisory board.  Financed entirely by donations, Aufklärung gegen Tabak hopes to reach more than 10,000 school children in the upcoming year. 

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