Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Manufacturer information will be stitched in every pack of cigarettes


Gazeta.ru: Let’s assume that all WHO Member States ratify the protocol. But will it be effectively implemented?

Dr Bettcher: The main incentive is the law. The task of the state is through legislation to make a person think, that he should quit. Increase in excise and cost of cigarettes, and the presence of hard-hitting large images on tobacco packs are the incentives from the State. If a tobacco control law is adopted, people have a strong incentive to stop tobacco use. Once a person is aware that smoking is harmful for his/her health and want to quit this habit, services to provide help, "quit line", medical insurance, low-cost pharmacological therapies and counseling, etc. should be in place.

State actually likes to pass on shoulders of employers the care about the health of citizens. In fact, the state is also in the response and is obliged to create conditions so decrease amount of smokers. Besides the abovementioned, the State must provide for the appropriate ad campaign. But people themselves should undertake part of the responsibility. In the workplace it is necessary not to smoke, but to work.

Gazeta.ru: You mentioned insurance with comprehensive services specifically for smokers. But this is additional cost to the employer, not all of them are ready to this.

Dr Bettcher: The state should oblige companies so that they cannot escape responsibility for the health of their employees. This is the same duty as to pay salaries.

In addition, company owners after the introduction of anti-smoking law begin realize quickly that, first, smokers tend to miss work more than non-smoker, therefore helping smokers quit will increase productivity. Second, by eliminating smoking at the workplace the number of fire incidents as well as the employees visits to the hospital decline. The result is reduced cost of insurance. Usually a positive effect is observed within the first year after the introduction of smoke-free law.

In Russia, this completely smoke-free legislation has not been adopted yet, but such legislation was enacted in an increasing number of countries, such as Canada, Ireland, Spain, Turkey, and others. A person who fell ill as a result of passive smoking in the workplace or, for example, who received a worsening chronic illness has legal right to sue the company and great chances to win.

Gazeta.ru: In Russia sales of cigarettes is a small business. Each State shall endeavor to support small business. But if you remove the sale of cigarettes from kiosks, this type of business falls into the danger zone and stops paying taxes and becomes ruined.

Dr Bettcher: Tobacco consumption costs the economy far more than the income from tobacco taxes.

Limiting the number of tobacco vendors, as well as places where they can be located is a key tool to combating the spread of tobacco and youth involvement. It has been proven and calculated, that the higher the density of small retailers is per unit area of the city, the higher is the number of smokers among young people. About 20% above the average for a certain location. The state must control the number of points where you can buy cigarettes.

For example, Spain in 2005 made what Russia is going to do soon - prohibit the sale of tobacco in kiosks. But 2 years later tobacco lobby has found a way to reject the bill. Smoking has increased again. The state is obliged to carry out a large-scale media campaign to explain the ban. Otherwise, the tobacco industry will be able to rely on public opinion and win back the law in their favor.

Gazeta.ru: Many smokers feel that some rules of Russian anti-smoking bill are unduly harsh. For example, the ban on smoking in public places, in restaurants, airports, and even on one’s own balcony. Smokers do not mind restrictions that limit the involvement of young people and teenagers into the process of smoking, but they are against limiting existing smokers.

Dr Bettcher: These are well-known songs of tobacco companies: you are against smokers! You do not respect their needs! No, we are not against smokers, we are for human health. This is a basic right - the right to life.

In the state program, which Vladimir Putin signed in 2010 after the ratification of the WHO FCTC, this right is clearly established. I believe that this program secured highest standards of health, including the possibility for citizens to breathe smoke-free air in public places/spaces.

Ireland was the first to implement such a ban in Europe. Although this country was known for its high number of smokes, 90% of non-smokers and 70% of smokers in Ireland supported a ban on smoking in public places. It is a matter of saving lives, I think they understood this. A year later, the ban reduced heart attack risks by 25%.

Gazeta.ru: What can you say about a negative economic effect on the owners of cafes and restaurants, if the law will smoke the smokers out?

Dr Bettcher: Perhaps, in Russia it is not known, but in Europe it has been calculated long ago that the negative consequences of such a ban either do not exist, or have a positive effect. That is all a propaganda of multinational tobacco companies, deceptive tactics of their marketing strategies!

Every time you get a study that says that the ban on smoking in restaurants and other public places ruin the restaurant business - you should know that this study has been financed by tobacco companies and is a blatant lie.

By the way, in none of the countries, it is possible to develop and adopt a smoke-free law, without media support. Traditionally tobacco companies manipulate public opinion. The louder the tobacco industry demonstrates its worry by yelling about the need to keep ventilated smoking area, and about human rights of smokers, the clearer it becomes that the anti-tobacco campaign is effective. We at WHO see it this way: if there is a hype in the media – the society is on the right track.

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