Bulgaria’s Health Ministry has organised a number of events countrywide as part of May 31, World No-Tobacco Day.
EU statistics show that about 35 per cent of Bulgarians aged over 15 smoke, the second-highest rate in the EU after Greece.
Since 2005, the price of cigarettes in Bulgaria has increased by 174 per cent, the third-highest in Europe after Romania and Turkey.
At global level, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have made this year’s theme of World No-Tobacco Day a call on countries to get ready for plain (standardised) packaging of tobacco products.
In European Union countries, including Bulgaria, World No-Tobacco Day 2016 comes just 11 days after the EU’s new tobacco products directive came into effect, introducing a wide range of new rules, directed in particular at discouraging young people from smoking.
Bulgaria’s Health Ministry’s 28 regional directorates have posted information online on events marking May 31, similarly directed at discouraging young people and adolescents from smoking.
In capital city Sofia, for example, there will be free consultations at the 20 Vranya Street office of the regional health inspectorate, from 10am to 4pm. Smokers who have refrained from lighting up on World No-Tobacco Day will be able to trade their cigarettes for fruit. Visitors may be tested for carbon monoxide in their inhaled air and the amount of carboxyhaemoglobin in the blood, and undergo a nicotine dependence test.
A similar screening campaign will be conducted at schools in the city, with the carboxyhaemoglobin
test to establish levels in passive and active smokers.
World No-Tobacco Day was founded in 1988 by the WHO. Bulgaria’s Health Ministry noted that the country had as of June 1 2012 banned smoking in indoor public places, including public transport and indoor workplaces.
The ministry issued a reminder that throughout the year, smokers could have free consultations at regional health inspectorates to help them give up smoking. Bulgaria also has a national hotline to help people stop smoking, at 0700 10 323.
WHO said that it and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control were calling on countries to get ready for plain packaging of tobacco products. Plain packaging refers to “measures to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style (plain packaging), WHO said.
Meanwhile, writing in the Health EU newsletter, Dr. Martina Pötschke-Langer , head of unit Cancer Prevention WHO Collaborating Centre for Tobacco Control, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), said that on May 20, the new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) had become applicable in the EU member states. The directive is an important achievement for public health in the EU and aims in particular to discourage young people from smoking, Pötschke-Langer said.
The directive will bring major changes to the tobacco products sold in the EU. Flavoured cigarettes that are attractive to young people such as fruit or menthol will not be allowed. Cigarette packages will carry large combined health warnings that remind consumers of the risks of smoking. Tobacco companies will not be able to market their products through misleading terms such as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’. The directive also addresses the illicit trade of tobacco products. New provisions for electronic cigarettes will ensure that these products are no longer unregulated in the EU and meet specific safety and quality requirements, Pötschke-Langer said.
“The past two years have been an intense time for those of us working in tobacco control,” she said, noting that the European Commission had adopted nine legal acts (eight implementing acts and one delegated act) containing the detailed technical rules needed to implement the TPD. These include the methods to determine flavours in tobacco products, the appearance of the new health warnings and rules for refillable electronic cigarettes.
The European Parliament and the Council have defended the Directive in three separate cases brought by the industry and one EU country.
On May 4, the Court of Justice had declared the Directive valid on all points, confirming its internal market basis and ensuring that its public health benefits are not lost, she said.
EU countries have also worked hard to transpose the directive. Many have introduced complementary or further measures in their Tobacco Acts such as plain packaging, advertising restrictions or smoke-free environments legislation, Pötschke-Langer said.
“For those of us working in the tobacco control community, the fight for a health oriented and evidence based TPD was a huge task – especially when faced with massive lobbying by the tobacco industry and its allies. This difficult task also continued in the member states as we supported them to transpose the Directive.
“The application of the TPD across the EU is a big step forward to ensure the health of all our citizens. We have seen that smoking prevalence is falling in the EU. The TPD should reinforce that trend and ensure that fewer young people take up this deadly habit,” she said.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)