Ukraine adopts anti-tobacco law: Who to win the fight against IQOS and GLO?

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

After long legal battles, Verkhovna Rada has adopted an anti-tobacco bill that equates electronic cigarettes and tobacco products for heating with cigarettes and also extends most of the current bans to them
22:24, 20 December 2021

Open source

Until now, despite repeated attempts by lawmakers to curb the proliferation of alternatives to traditional cigarettes, smokeless systems for heating tobacco and vaping have felt at ease. However, even after yesterday's vote for the tobacco companies selling them, as well as for the army of smokers, nothing will change in the next year or two: almost all the norms of the law voted by the Rada come into force only after a certain time - from six months to two years.

Yesterday, by the end of the extraordinary meeting, the Verkhovna Rada adopted in the second reading and in general a draft law on amendments to some laws of Ukraine regarding public health from the harmful effects of tobacco No. 4358. The essence of this document is that an alternative to traditional cigarettes is smokeless heating systems, vapes and e-cigarettes are subject to the prohibitions imposed on cigarettes, as no less harmful.

"The draft law introduces definitions and regulations for the regulation of smokeless tobacco products, in particular tobacco products for electric heating, devices for ensuring smoking of tobacco products, in respect of which there are now completely no legislative requirements to protect public health from the harm of tobacco. These products should be regulated as tobacco products. introduces requirements for smokeless tobacco products, in particular smokeless products for electric heating and devices for providing smoking, the same as for tobacco products," says one of the explanatory notes of the bill.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the website of the Verkhovna Rada posted four versions of the text of the bill (the last one dated November 9). Unofficially, the tobacco companies admit that they did not see the final version, which was approved yesterday in the session hall, therefore they cannot judge which bans from the previous editions survived. Based on the text of the official news posted on the Rada website, the final version of the law:

- advertising and promotion of the sale of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and liquids to them are prohibited;

- for sales to persons under 18 years of age, a fine of 49 USD is provided, and in case of a repeated violation within one year – 420 USD;

- it is planned to increase the area of ​​medical warnings about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packages. By the way, they are already applied to cigarette packages now, in contrast to packages with sticks for tobacco heating systems and cartridges with liquids for vaping;

- flavored cigarettes are prohibited. At the same time, it is unclear whether the final version of the norm on the prohibition of the use of flavoring additives (fruit, berry) in smokeless tobacco products remained in the final version, as it was supposed, in particular, in the version of the document dated November 9;

- Smoking using heating devices is prohibited in all public places and premises, by analogy with smoking ordinary cigarettes.

The Rada website reports that the law comes into force 18 months (1 year and 6 months) from the date of its publication. The only exceptions are a number of individual norms.

Related: Why cigarettes are becoming more expensive in Ukraine?

According to the latest version of the bill, immediately after the publication of the document, only the requirement that “single packs of cigarettes must have a cuboid shape and contain at least 20 cigarettes. They must consist of cardboard or soft material, have a hole that can be closed again or re-sealed after first opening, except in a hinged lid or box with a hinged lid. "

6 months after the publication of the document, the norms will come into force according to which smoking, consumption and use of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and refueling containers, devices for smoking tobacco products and tobacco, hookahs are prohibited in most public places. Among such places, in particular, elevators and payphones, premises and territories of health care institutions, premises and territories of educational institutions, premises of sports and recreation facilities, premises of state authorities, playgrounds, underground passages, transport stops, taxis and even house entrances are indicated. 

Related: No cigarettes, no household chemicals: Do's and don'ts of Ukrainian supermarkets during lockdown

At the same time, it is not entirely clear who and how should monitor compliance with this prohibition and what sanctions may be applied to violators. But how to check if people do this in taxis or in the entrances of houses? If a taxi driver doesn't mind smoking IQOS or Glo, even cigarettes or cigars, who and how can stop it? As for the prohibition of the use of smokeless smoking systems in restaurants and hotels, they are still prohibited in most establishments.

Serious requirements, such as the placement of health warnings about the dangers of smoking, outlined with a 1 mm wide black border and covering at least 65% of the outer front and back surfaces of the pack, are not introduced until 24 months (2 years) from the date of publication of the bill. According to the authors of the document, they are of great importance, since "the use of pictorial warnings helps to prevent the initiation of smoking, especially among children and young people, and is also a factor in smoking cessation." One of the numerous explanatory notes to the bill says that after the appearance of graphic warnings on cigarette packs in Ukraine in October 2012, there are fewer smokers. Research by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in 2017 showed that 54% of current smokers thought about quitting because of warnings on cigarette packs since a smoker sees a pack at least 20 times a day and 7,000 times a year.

Related: Ukrainian tries to smuggle cigarettes to Poland, gets caught

All this indicates that in the near future, advertising banners for electronic cigarettes and systems for heating tobacco from the Internet and sales areas will definitely not disappear. Shop visitors will continue to be greeted by huge installations with heating systems and advertisements at the checkout counters and tobacco sales departments. This means that the army of "alternative" smokers will continue to grow. In particular, the IQOS chatbot reports 1 million users in Ukraine. This is not counting the users of GLO, Lil solid, IQOS VEEV (vape) systems, disposable e-cigarettes with different flavors. But just a couple of years ago, the army of smoking fans using devices numbered only tens of thousands.

Regardless of what the MPs may say, the idea, broadcast by tobacco companies, that the "alternative" is less harmful than the traditional smoke, is firmly entrenched in the minds of Ukrainians. And let's be honest, with such timid attempts to fight it, as the deputies have now demonstrated with the adoption of the anti-tobacco law, it will obviously not be possible to defeat it in the near future.

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