Hungary releases new data on the social burden of smoking

Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Hungary

Participants of World No Tobacco Day press conference: Dr Zoltan Vokó, National Institute for Health Development, Dr Zsofia Pusztai, WHO Country Office for Hungary, and Tibor Demjén, Hungarian Focal Point for Tobacco Control

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, 31 May 2012, the WHO Country Office in Hungary held a joint press conference together with the National Institute for Health Development and the Chief Medical Office, which received wide national and social media coverage. Zsofia Pusztai, Head of the Country Office introduced this year's topic of tobacco industry interference, and acknowledged the work carried out by the Ministry of Health and other national authorities in implementing a new law that came into effect January 2012 prohibiting smoking in closed public places.

The National Institute for Health Development presented a report entitled "The social burden of smoking" based on a survey conducted in March 2012. It was also announced that pictorial health warnings will be required on tobacco packages sold in Hungary. This initiative, which is supported by nearly four-fifths of the population, represents a significant step forward for Hungary. The images will be introduced over the coming few months.

National statistics

In past years experts have tried to quantify the economic burden of smoking-related illnesses and deaths in Hungary, but a lack of basic data limited the accuracy of such estimates. The National Institute for Health Development initiated "The social burden of smoking" study to fill this gap in available data as well as to monitor the effects of the new smoke-free law.

According to the study results, the proportion of daily smokers among men has declined since 2000, while there has been no major change in the proportion of women who smoke. The rate of women who smoke regularly has increased 1% since 2009. As of early 2012, 32.3% of men and 23.5% of women in Hungary smoke daily.

The results also indicate that the number of cigarettes smoked has decreased by nearly 8% since 2009, while the proportion of rolled (rather than factory-made) cigarettes has increased significantly: in 2012 the number of rolled cigarettes was almost double, reaching one-third of the total amount of cigarettes smoked.

Passive smoking remains a significant problem: 12% of non-smokers reported that they inhale cigarette smoke at home; 7% are exposed to tobacco smoke at work or in restaurants and other closed public spaces; 5% reported that people smoke in waiting rooms despite the prohibition; and 21% are exposed to tobacco smoke while waiting for public transport at stops.

Nearly two-thirds of non-smokers (61%) agree that it should be forbidden to smoke in bars or pubs. The smoking ban in restaurants, workplaces and public transport is supported by 80% of non-smokers, and moreover endorsed by half of smokers.

Health and economic impacts

The report notes that half a million patients are treated in hospitals annually due to smoking-related diseases. In 2010, more than 20 000 people died as a direct result of smoking in Hungary. This means that 16 out of 100 deaths can be attributed to smoking. Women who smoke die 19 years prematurely, and men live at least 16 years less due to smoking.

In 2010, tobacco-related state revenue exceeded HUF 360 billion (approximately EUR 347 million), but societal expenditures related to smoking totalled HUF 441 billion. The balance of total individual and state income and expenditure thus gave rise to a loss of HUF 80 billion in 2010.