Almaty, Kazakhstan – Smoke-free

Almaty smokefree day: 2008
National Coalition for a Smoke-Free Kazakhstan/Sadykova Jamilya
Almaty smoke-free day: 2008

As the longest-running example of a city with a tobacco control programme in the former Soviet region, municipal leaders can learn much from the Almaty example. Realizing that the 2002 national Law on Tobacco Smoking Prevention and Limitation, while notable, did not extend to bars and restaurants, the Smokefree Almaty programme pushed for more protective tobacco control. Since the smoke-free programme began in 2004, smoking prevalence fell among teenagers from 19% to 15% in 2008 and among medical personnel from 35% to 15%. New and more comprehensive national legislation was then passed in 2009.

The national Law on Tobacco Smoking Prevention and Limitations, approved in 2002, was Kazakhstan’s first national law focussing on tobacco, although the tobacco industry had played an influential role in its development. It banned smoking in administrative and educational premises, sports stadiums, theatres, public transport and hospitality sector premises. However, in practice, the law proved ineffective. People continued to smoke heavily in bars and restaurants and there was a widespread perception that the law would not be enforced.


Population: 2 million

Smokers: 23% (men 40%, women 10%)

In March 2005, following a high profile and effective media and advocacy campaign, the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan adopted a tobacco control programme and invested resources in it. Smokefree Almaty was the first, and up to the present time remains the only, example of a financially supported, long-term, city tobacco control initiative in Kazakhstan and in the whole of the former Soviet region.

Building on the Smokefree Almaty experience and the expertise of its tobacco control advocates, new tobacco control legislation came into effect in October 2009. The Population Health and Health Care System Act cancelled the 2002 law and incorporated a 100% ban on smoking in all public places.

Key actions

Efforts to bring about and implement a Smokefree Almaty programme included:

  • Joint collaborative work with the Mayor and city administration for a special, municipal budget to take forward a Smokefree Almaty Programme - including by key Parliamentarians.
  • A media campaign incorporating visible monitoring of the national tobacco law, videos and briefing materials for local decision-makers.
  • Following its approval and funding, the Smokefree Almaty programme has included information campaigns, mobilising society support and creating smoke-free places and programme monitoring.


  • Medical and educational institutions in the city became smoke-free. However, initially, because of the weakness of the law, there were limitations to the extent that other premises were smoke-free. However, the 2009 Health Act is already leading to far more smoke-free places in Almaty - including many restaurants.
  • Since the smoke-free programme began, smoking prevalence fell among teenagers from 19% in 2004 to 15% in 2008 and from 35% in 2004 to 15% among medical personnel.
  • Other cities and regions within Kazakhstan have followed Almaty’s approach.
  • Tobacco control advocates in Almaty have been influential in securing the more protective smoke-free legislation set out in the 2009 Health Act.

Lessons learnt

  • Political leadership was central to achieving and sustaining support for the Smokefree Almaty programme.
  • Strong and committed NGOs were a driving force in implementing lobbying activities – in drafting key materials, arguing for the programme and garnering media support.
  • An intersectoral partnership that can reach many different parts of the society helps to maximise the impact on public opinion.
  • A supportive media enables creative, provocative and straightforward messages to influence public opinion in favour of smoke-free agendas.
  • A sustained and secure funding stream has enabled long-term, smoke-free interventions to be put in place.