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Prohibitive measures alone are not enough

Alexander Lukashenko urges that we find new approaches to discourage smoking, speaking at a meeting on the use of tobacco and electronic cigarettes
“We see that people continue to smoke, so prohibitive measures alone are clearly not enough,” declared the President. “It’s no secret that forbidden fruit is the sweetest for beginners [novice smokers]. Meanwhile, experienced smokers need strong motivation to give up. The time has come to look for new ways to solve this problem, looking at the actual state of things and human psychology.”

Alexander Lukashenko emphasised that international experience and practice shows that well considered measures are more effective than a total ban. “Administrative restrictions should reflect various drives, incentives, and informational work. The core responsibility lies with medical professionals, journalists, teachers and ideologists,” the Head of State asserted.

According to the President, the problem of tobacco consumption remains acute in Belarus, despite measures taken. Almost half of the country’s male population smokes, and this harmful habit is increasingly observed among young people.

“Moreover, we’re seeing new faux-smoking products appearing, that are no less harmful than tobacco. I’m referring to electronic cigarettes, which are becoming increasingly popular. They’re attractive because of their unusualness, their availability and the lack of information on the harm they can cause, although not all agree that they’re as harmful as traditional cigarettes,” said the Head of State.

Mr. Lukashenko noted that a draft decree is currently under his consideration, saying, “This is a serious document. I need to consider and sign it but, before doing so, I want to have another discussion on the problems touched upon by this draft decree, and to review issues of tobacco production and consumption.”

The President recalled that a decree to reduce tobacco consumption by Belarusian citizens was passed back in 2002, with amendments made on a regular basis. “However, we haven’t yet seen the intended result. Therefore, we must analyse how the current edition of the decree is complied, and what developments have been observed. Secondly, (regarding those responsible for compliance), we must look at how efficiently we’re monitoring the results of efforts taken,” said the Head of State.

The new draft, in particular, suggests treating electronic cigarettes as tobacco, while expanding the list of non-smoking areas. “However, the question arises as to whether these measures will have the expected effect,” noted Mr. Lukashenko. “We should discuss whether the draft decree envisages all relevant points and if there are alternative ways to reduce tobacco consumption in Belarus.” Health Minister Vasily Zharko commented that tobacco consumption causes significant damage to people’s health; in turn, this becomes a burden on society and on the state. He emphasised, “Tobacco smoking is one of the core factors in contracting non-infectious diseases, with their complications and premature mortality.”

He states that non-infectious disease accounts for 86 percent of all disease, and 82 percent of deaths in Belarus. “In 2015, mortality among men of employable age was quadruple that of women, with specific causes, such as poor blood circulation and malignant tumours, being seven times higher among men. Tobacco smoke contains more than 90 known carcinogens and about 250 toxic compounds,” Mr. Zharko stresses.

The provisions of the new decree, as suggested by its elaborators, were approved at the meeting, although some need improving. Once accomplished, the reviewed document will be submitted to the President. The Minister of Trade, Vladimir Koltovich, outlined the main points, saying that sale of electronic cigarettes will be regulated in the same way as tobacco, with specific points of sale designated, and smoking areas tightly regulated. Restaurants and cafés will no longer be allowed to have smoking-rooms and only specially contained and ventilated rooms will be permitted to allow smoking, as are found at airports. Meanwhile, there will be a ban on consumption and sale of non-smoking chewing mixes.

By Vasily Kharitonov

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