Turkmenistan adopts healthy food programme
Turkey maintains role in Afghanistan
FATA could be polio-free by end of 2013, officials say
Kyrgyzstan considers tighter firearm regulations
Kazakhstan seeks to crack down on smoking
Bill would make it more difficult to buy tobacco products
By Olga Pavlovskaya
ALMATY – Almaty resident Aleksandr Magayev, 22, who started smoking eight years ago, hopes a Kazakh bill that would intensify the fight against smoking will help him drop the habit.
“If I have to go not to a shop a short walk from my home, but have to ride to a special store somewhere far away for a pack of cigarettes, I’ll have to think about whether I need this at all,” he said.
The bill “On Government Regulation of the Production and Sale of Tobacco Products” was introduced earlier this month. It proposes raising the minimum age for tobacco buyers to 21 years from 18, and limiting tobacco sales to 11am-9pm on weekdays. It also stipulates that tobacco sellers would have to be 21 or older, and tobacco sales would be limited to special stores or store departments that would have to be more than 500m from cultural, healthcare, educational and sports facilities.
Earlier measures included a ban on smoking in public places, imposed October 9, 2009, and Prime Minister Karim Massimov’s September 2009 decree requiring mandatory publication of information about the content of tobacco products.
A health and living survey in eight ex-Soviet countries (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Moldova) showed that Kazakhstan had the highest percentage of smokers.
About 4m, or 25%, of Kazakhstan’s 16m people smoke, the Health Ministry said. Almost 2 out of 3 men, and about 1 in 10 women, are smokers.
A survey by the Republican Scientific and Practical Centre for Addiction-Related Social Problems of schoolchildren in larger cities showed that one in four respondents had tried tobacco at least once and that one in 16 was a regular smoker.
The bill’s concept is under review by the Tax Committee and other government agencies, with the Finance Ministry in the lead, Finance Minister Bolat Zhamishev said, adding that the focus is on stiffening licensing requirements to prevent the sale of low-quality tobacco products.
“The concept envisages substantially stricter state control over the production and sale of tobacco,” he said. “The requirements will be much tougher than before. But a lot of work on the bill is still ahead.”
Other proposed changes include raising minimum tobacco prices, licensing tobacco imports and sales and establishing control over local producers.
MP Toktarbai Kadambayev said he urged Massimov as early as last year to develop an anti-smoking programme, offering incentives and bonuses to non-smokers and increasing advertising about the hazards of smoking.
“We must warn about (the risk of) disease and pool efforts with the government and NGOs in the fight against this evil,” he said. However, government restrictions and excise taxes “won’t work,” MP Mukhtar Tinikeyev contended.
“Sometimes, the only joy in the life of labourers is lighting up after a hard day’s work,” he said. “If a pack of cigarettes costs about 1,000 KZT (US $7), as proposed in the bill, then one won’t be able to afford it, ever. What right do we have to deprive someone of pleasure? If someone cares about his health, he will quit smoking.”
According to a survey carried out by “Kazakhstan Without Tobacco Smoke,” a national coalition of medical, civic and government organisations seeking restrictions on tobacco, nearly 26% of the population favour a full ban on domestic production and imports of tobacco; 14% want smoking banned in public places and personal cars; 12% wish tobacco sales to be allowed only with proper ID and with registration in a database; about 30% suggest giving smokers medical treatment to break their habit; and 18% say all of the above measures are necessary.
The bill will help reduce the number of smokers but not by raising the minimum age or by limiting sales hours, said coalition leader Dzhamilya Sadykova. Rather, “it provides for introducing retail sales licensing, as a way to drive dishonest traders from the market, and for establishing special tobacco shops so one can’t buy cigarettes at every store.”