Government takes new tobacco bill under revise

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 25, 2019 13:16

Government takes new tobacco bill under revise

Story Highlights

  • A bill proposal that would request all businesses to issue a new license for selling tobacco products (apart from tobacco shops), was taken back for revision after complaints from tobacco companies, small businesses, and market operators.

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TIRANA, March 21- On February 2019 the Ministry of Health proposed a new bill regarding tobacco consumption. The new bill demands that apart from the specific tobacco shops, all the rest of grocery shops, markets, or cafes/clubs, must request the issuing of a special license to sell tobacco products.

The aim of this bill in the changing of the law “for the health protection from tobacco products” is the limitation of selling spots in the country for these products. The changes foresee and prevent the sales of cigarette packs with 10 or less cigarettes, but also rolling tobacco with added flavors.

There are currently 20 thousand formal sales spots all over the country that sell tobacco products. There is a “black market” however, the informal market of street vendors, which occupies a 40 percent. Market operators claim that if this law will be implemented, then there is a risk of informality. Cheaper prices might be offered due to tax absences, and there would also be an increase in uncontrolled products entering the market. Another issue would be a trade monopoly.

Considering that small businesses and importing companies generate a lot of profits from tobacco sales, complaints and lobbying has backed the Health Ministry down by taking the bill under scrutiny. In press releases the Ministry said that the bill will be revised, especially the chapter that requires businesses to get a special license for tobacco products.

The Ministry stressed that this proposal only assures the health protection of citizens and enforcing the monitoring role of the accountable Health Inspectorate. According to the State Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) however, the tobacco consumption has been overall reduced. In 2008 43 percent of Albanian men aged 15-49 years old smoked cigarettes, whereas in 2018 that number was reduced to 35 percent. For the same period the tobacco consumption had only increased by 1 percent in women in the same age group.

According to INSTAT the overall number of smokers in the country was reduced by 7 percent in the past decade. This was enforced somehow by measures taken by the government, such as forbidding smoking in collective and closed areas, like restaurants, cafes, clubs, etc.. Another effect might have been caused by the increase in the excise tax which caused an increase in the final product prices.

The Ministry of Health mentioned that the general changes in the bill are grouped into six points in the relation accompanying the bill, underlining that at least six adjustments. First of all clarifying the definitions of tobacco and its by-products, and including in this category new tobacco products. This aims to include in the regulatory framework any tobacco product or by-product that is harmful to the health of the population. Also through these specifications it is aimed the strengthening of tobacco control and avoiding abusive cases.

Secondly, the producers and /or importers of tobacco products are obliged to inform the Ministry of Health and Social Protection about the entry of new tobacco products in the market, which aims to keep the relevant bodies informed about the dynamics of these new products, their characteristics, and the negative effects they have on the population. Having this information is expected to enable better monitoring of law enforcement and its future adaptation based on new products entering the country.

Thirdly, prohibiting the selling of packs with reduced cigarettes or with altered tastes is expected to reduce the purchase of these products from consumers who can not afford a full package price, or consumers for whom the characteristic taste of tobacco is an unsatisfactory element in smoking and in the absence of alternative tastes would choose to not consume the conventional product.

Fourthly, prohibiting the indirect promotion through the logo colors of tobacco products and their placement on visible shelves, is done in the context of strengthening the control of preventing the promotion and marketing of tobacco products as a stimulating factor for its use in the population.

Fifthly, banning the use of electronic cigarettes and heating tobacco in closed spaces by applying the same rules as for conventional forms of smoking which aims the protection against unwanted exposure to tobacco products. And sixth of all, the enforcement of punitive measures in case of legal violations, aims to strengthen the law implementation and increase the protection of citizens exposed to tobacco smoke, either from conventional products or from innovative products.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 25, 2019 13:16