Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Manufacturer information will be stitched in every pack of cigarettes The King of Bhutan banned smoking in the country. The only exception is for the guests and diplomats. It turns out those countries with authoritarian regimes successfully combat tobacco?

Dr Bettcher: First, one amendment, in 2004 the King of Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco, not tobacco use. Second, it does not depend on the regime. And by the way, the most successful countries in the field of tobacco control are states with a democratic regime, such as Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Turkey, Uruguay. It all depends on the size of the program and the political will of the government. The Russian State program, adopted in 2010, by Vladimir Putin, is a persuasive document. But now there is a need for the political will to ensure that it is supported and fully realized at all levels. What mistakes in implementing an anti-smoking bill would you warn Russia about?

Dr Bettcher: It is a grave mistake, if the state creates anti-smoking legislation together with the tobacco companies. In paragraph 5.3 of the WHO FCTC it is stated that tobacco companies should not take part in tobacco control efforts of the government, e.g. while enforcing the law or training law enforcers, not even in the discussion of draft laws concerning tobacco control and healthy living. Otherwise, the bill is sure to be relaxed in favor of the tobacco companies. It is important that all meetings between the executives, delegates, civil society organizations and the tobacco lobby always take place publicly.

Moreover, the texts of bills and any initiatives in this area should be made available to the public. The rules governing this area should be as transparent as possible. Conditions must be created in which the tobacco companies could not lobby for their interests in the drafting of laws and their implementation. Tobacco companies in Russia actively participated in the discussion of the bill, it is not a secret.

Dr Bettcher: Creation of anti-smoking law involving the tobacco industry is meaningless. Waiting for an impact of such laws is useless. Tobacco companies, as malarial mosquitoes are spreading an epidemic. The state is obliged to protect themselves to the maximum from tobacco companies.

Another typical mistake is half measures. A country may adopt a law or even come up with a norm regulating one of the sectors, like for instance tobacco production, and this is it. This is the worst it can be. One needs a complex of measures covering all spheres – tobacco production, its dissemination, taxes, preventing measures, healthy life style promotion, programs supporting the ones willing to quit.

One can chose step-by-step approach as Turkey did. In early 2008 Turkey banned smoking at most of work- and public- places, and in 2009 – in the remaining places, i.e. bars and restaurant. The transition period was one year.

And, Spain, for instance, made a mistake when it first adopted restrictions on smoking in public places, then everybody forgot about this restriction, later it was introduced again.

Tobacco-control law may come into force gradually but it has to include the comprehensive ban at once. One should not do partial bans, should not first ban smoking in transportation, then in public places, then at work places. One mustn’t settle up for ad ban on radio while keep ad on TV, or ban it on TV but in five years.

This is a typical example of half measures. Russia didn’t avoid this mistake. Having banned tobacco advertisement in mass media, it kept ads at sales racks in stores, on outside bill boards. One has to enact all bans at once. This will exclude the opportunity of tobacco industry to influence the process.

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