Conference on World No Tobacco Day highlights efforts to reduce tobacco use in Slovenia

WHO

To highlight measures to reduce the burden of disease due to smoking, the Ministry of Health of Slovenia, the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), and the WHO Country Office in Slovenia, together with the 2 largest nongovernmental organizations in the country, hosted a national conference in Ljubljana for World No Tobacco Day, 29 May 2014.

10 people die every day due to smoking in Slovenia; and every other smoker dies due to smoking-related consequences. Today we know a lot about the effectiveness of various measures to reduce the prevalence of smoking and that it is important to use a combination of measures. At the conference, Helena Koprivnikar of the NIPH said: "Increasing the rate of taxation and thus the price of tobacco products is the most effective component of any comprehensive tobacco control programme and the most cost-effective measure." 

WHO estimates that the number of smokers would decline by 49 million if taxes were increased by 50% per pack. Marijan Ivanuša, Head of the WHO Country Office in Slovenia explained: “In 26 of our 53 Member States in the European Region tax represents 75% or more of the retail price of cigarettes, and we would urge the remaining 27 to follow suit." 

Tobacco prices in Slovenia among the lowest in the European Union

The current system of levying excise duties in Slovenia was launched in 1999. Ms Koprivnikar noted that it is important for Slovenia to continue with regular and substantial increases in taxation and prices of tobacco products, with which it can curb the affordability of tobacco products. "The prices of tobacco products in Slovenia are among the lowest in the European Union while affordability is among the highest." 

European countries have pledged to step up efforts for full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Convention, of which Slovenia is a signatory, sets out a series of measures to restrict the activities of the tobacco industry and thus help people to better health.

Combination of measures is needed

Nataša Blažko of the Ministry of Health pointed out that effective measures for tobacco control also include a complete ban on advertising, promotion and exhibition of tobacco products in sales outlets and the use of part of the funds from the tobacco excise tax programmes for smoking prevention and cessation. These measures are supported by the vast majority of Slovenians, according to recently conducted opinion polls.

Participation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)

The youth association "No Excuse Slovenia", representing over 50 youth organizations that participated in the preparation of amendments to the Restriction of the Use of Tobacco Products Act (ZOUTI) in Slovenia, prepared the Slovenian Youth Manifesto on Tobacco in 2014. "This manifesto brings together over 130 proposals from interested young people and their organizations and clearly indicates that young people in Slovenia want stricter tobacco policy," said Jan Peloza, President of No Excuse Slovenia.

Nina Rogelj, initiator of the Manifesto said: "We are delighted that so many young people support stricter measures on tobacco, which gives us, activists, a big boost for further work in this area." This manifesto will serve as a starting point for measuring public opinion on tobacco among young people in the coming years, and especially as a vision on the road to a Slovenia without tobacco.

The Slovenian Association for Public Health, Environment and Tobacco Control (SZOTK) is working together with 70 NGOs in the field of prevention of tobacco use at national and European Union level. "The role of the nongovernmental sector in Slovenia is important, as it implements prevention programmes in cooperation with state institutions, campaigns and services, gives legal initiatives, provides field data and combines models of good practice. We are successfully implementing smoking cessation workshops in small groups as well as individual counselling. Interactive programmes to promote a smoking-free lifestyle and smoking cessation take place in schools and centres for informal education. We organize public events and conferences on the topic of prevention of tobacco use, and transferring models of good practice from the European Union," said SZOTK President Mihaela Lovše. SZOTK will join the Eastern Europe Helping Smokers Quit Project, which aims to educate nurses to support smoking cessation among their patients.