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Lukashenko urges to step up anti-smoking campaign

MINSK (BelTA) – It is essential to devise new anti-smoking approaches, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said at the session held on 28 July to discuss the sale and consumption of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices, BelTA has learned.

“We can see than people are still smoking, and only preventive measures are not enough,” the President said. “It is a known fact that a forbidden fruit is sweet for beginners (first-time smokers. – BelTA's note). Long-time smokers need strong motivation to give up their habit. It is time to look for the new ways of solving this problem, the ways that will take into account the real state of affairs and people's psychology.”

Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the global experience and practice show that a well-considered complex of measures will be more effective than absolute bans. “Administrative restrictions should be combined with various stimuli, encouragements, and information work. Doctors, journalists, teachers, ideologists will play a crucial role here,” the head of state said.

According to the President, the problem of tobacco consumption in Belarus is a serious one. In spite of the measures taken, almost a half of Belarusian men smoke, more and more young people start smoking. “Besides, new smoking-imitating products as harmful as tobacco emerge. This pertains to electronic cigarettes which are growing in popularity. They attract people because of their novelty, affordability, and the lack of information about their negative effects. Not all people agree that they are as harmful as traditional cigarettes,” the head of state said.

Alexander Lukashenko noted that the draft ordinance which had been submitted for his consideration was the reason for holding the session. “The document is a serious one. I should consider it and sign. But I decided to discuss the problems outlined in this draft ordinance as well as such issues as the manufacture and consumption of tobacco products once again,” the President stated.

He reminded that the ordinance aimed at reducing the consumption of tobacco in Belarus was passed in 2002 and has been regularly amended since then. “But we haven't got the awaited result yet. Therefore, we, first of all, need to analyze the progress in the implementation of the ordinance and current achievements. Secondly (about those responsible for the implementation of the ordinance), it is needed to analyze the efficiency of tracking the results of work,” the head of state said.

The new draft ordinance, in particular, will treat electronic cigarettes like normal tobacco cigarettes and expand the list of places where smoking is banned. “However, will these measures be efficient?” Alexander Lukashenko wondered. “We should decide if the draft ordinance is a comprehensive document, and look for alternative measures to reduce the number of smokers in Belarus.”

Belarus' Healthcare Minister Vasily Zharko said at the session that the consumption of tobacco has a negative impact on people's health. This, in turn, is a heavy burden for the society and the state. “Smoking is one of the major disposable risk factors of infectious diseases, complications, and premature mortality,” he stressed.

According to the minister, infectious diseases account for about 86% of all diseases and 82% of death causes in Belarus. “In 2015, the death rate among working-age men was 4 times higher that that among working-age women. Due to some reasons, the frequency of circulatory diseases and cancer was almost 7 times higher. Tobacco smoke contains more than 90 known carcinogens and about 250 toxic chemicals,” Vasily Zharko said.

BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian leader that the President approved the draft ordinance. This document will be polished at the interagency level, and the final version will be submitted to the head of state for signing. The President stressed that every measure should have obligatory effect.