Smokers in Ukraine on the Decline
Ukraine has one of the highest numbers of smokers in Europe, with most people starting by the age of 12.
Doctors say smoking-related diseases kill around 100,000 people each year.
But according to the Ministry of Health, the number of smokers in Ukraine has decreased by 5% in the last year, compared with the previous year.
The main reasons may be the increase in excise taxes and the prices of tobacco products, the restriction on public smoking and the prohibition of direct advertising.
But the battle against smoking has not stopped - there are hopes of achieving a total ban on cigarette advertising, particularly on the Internet, points of sale, and in places of public catering like restaurants and bars.
[Olesya Orobets, Member of Parliament]:
"Statistics prove that a partial ban has lead to a reduction of smoking in 12% of society, a complete ban is what we are seeking - a reduction of around 24%."
In Kyiv, smoking is banned in playgrounds, parks, bus stops and other public places. Anyone caught smoking in public places can be fined up to 340 hryvnia or around $43.
However not many follow the rules.
[Taras Shevchenko, Smoke-Free Kyiv]:
"The Smoke-Free Kyiv project surveyed 100 bars and restaurants on how effective the law against smoking has been enforced. We found that 79% of people are violating this law. And 10% of places do not provide space for non-smokers."
The Interior Ministry says violators have paid smoking fines totaling around $1-million hryvnia - more than $125,000 - in the run up to last year.
Smoker Alexander Simakov supports the smoking ban in public areas.
[Alexander Simakov, Smoker]:
"In principle, the full smoking ban is certainly the best. There will be fewer people smoking, the nation will be healthier. In that environment I would quit smoking, because I would want to quit."
At the same time, smokers themselves have many suggestions on how to reduce the country’s smoking rates.
"If cigarettes were 30 Russian rubles per pack instead of 20 rubles, then people will smoke less."
[A resident of Kyiv]:
"Make it so it’s unfashionable. Because a high percentage of smokers start smoking by saying it’s fashionable. And then the kids just can’t refuse smoking. "
Recently Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a list of images for cigarette packs, warning of the dangers of smoking.
The new icons can be seen on cigarette packaging in the second half of the next year.
NTD News, Kyiv, Ukraine.