Stop all-pervading cigarette smoke

By Nigar Orujova

Smoking damages the health of not only those who smoke but also people around them. This fact comes in mind after visiting numerous cafes in Baku. Here and there, tobacco smoke hovers over those who like it or not.

However, the country’s residents have got used to this situation. About 60 percent of men and up to 10 percent women smoke tobacco in Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the neighboring countries ban smoking not only in the public places but also in closed spaces. In Turkey, a bill that prohibits smoking in public places was approved in 2006. Three years ago Russia made a similar measure.

In Azerbaijan, the issue rises from time to time; nevertheless, it is still an open question.

Today, the country is working hard to become the main tourist destination of the region. At present, mostly guests from the Commonwealth of Independent States come to visit the renovated Azerbaijan. The situation may change in favor of European tourists this year, as the country is going to host the first European Games.

Natural beauty of the country, its history and delicious cuisine are what attract people to Azerbaijan; however, tobacco smoke may ruin the impression.

The current law "On tobacco and tobacco products" in the country prohibits use of tobacco products in educational, health and culture institutions, as well as in the halls where sports and other events are held. Moreover, smoking is also banned in public transport.

This law prohibits sale of tobacco products to persons less than 18 years old.

However, Azerbaijani representation of the World Health Organization reported several years ago that the law is not enforced completely. And today, no serious steps have been taken to strengthen control in this area.

Experts believe a complex approach that include restricting cigarette smoking sites, increasing cigarette prices and banning smoking in various places, including cafes and restaurants, is required to eradicate this problem.

Moreover, educational courses should be held for the population to warn about the consequences of smoking for the smokers and their relatives, rather than to ban smoking completely.

The parliament may discuss a bill banning smoking in enclosed spaces at the spring session, Musa Guliyev, member of the Committee on Social Policy, said in early January.

"We are gradually implementing a law banning smoking in public places, and it is giving good results,” Guliyev believes.

“In the first phase which began a few years ago, a law was passed banning smoking in public places, and the law is already running. In the second phase, the decree banned smoking on the territory of Old City. In addition, some amendments and additions were made to the Tax Code at the last meeting, excise duties on tobacco products were increased and their price increased," he added.

The next step will be adoption of the draft law "On Restriction of tobacco use in enclosed spaces". In this bill, education works and not penalties are the main focus, the MP said.

Moreover, Guliyev would bring up the point of banning smoking of shisha at the spring session.

He said, in recent years hookah has been widespread among young people in Azerbaijan, including Baku.

"But the hookah has a lot of negative effects. Hookah poisons not only the body of the smoker, but also others. On the other hand, non-compliance with hygiene rules leads to transmission of infection from one person to another. In short, hookah smoking can lead to infectious diseases," Guliyev said.

However, the biggest threat from smoking hookah is emergence of addiction, tendency to drug addiction, the MP stressed.

Prices on tobacco stable

Meanwhile, a price increase of tobacco products in Azerbaijan is not expected in the near future, said Rufat Guliyev, Chairman of the Board of "European Tobacco Baku" Company.

Commenting on the possible increase in the price of cigarettes because of the amendments to the Tax Code, he said so far, the price of cigarettes will remain at the same level.

“The market is calm. This is due to the fact that there are several reasons behind the growing price of cigarettes,” he told local media.

The issue of price increase depends on the market mainly, Guliyev added.

He also noted that the prices of tobacco products in Azerbaijan are the lowest in the CIS and one of the lowest in the world.

This information is not comforting for those who are sick and tired of cigarette smoke, especially with the statistics from around the world that 600,000 people are victims of passive smoking every year. Hopefully, a decision will be made in near future that both smokers and non-smokers may agree on it.

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Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar

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