Slovenia seeks stricter tobacco control legislation

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The Ministry of Health proposes tightening restrictions on tobacco products, in line with new EU rules, and also introducing new levies to finance smoking prevention. The bill would reflect the new EU tobacco products directive and measures imposed by the WHO FCTC. The draft bill, the first overhaul of tobacco legislation since major limits on sales, advertising and smoking in public were imposed in 2007, seeks to discourage smoking, in particular among young people.

Within a period of 2 years, the Ministry plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products to make them less attractive to buyers. In accordance with the EU directive, Slovenia would also impose a ban on flavours, such as fruit and menthol, and additives, such as vitamins and herbs, in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. The Ministry also plans to tackle the sale and advertising of electronic cigarettes and to impose a ban on Internet sale of tobacco and tobacco products.

 The Ministry is also proposing measures to reduce access to tobacco products, a full ban on advertising and a ban on smoking in cars carrying minors. Cigarettes and other tobacco products would be outlawed in the media. This would not affect films, but smoking would be banned on TV programmes (e.g. reality shows). The Minister also announced a new fee  , called the "tobacco cent", which could amount to between 50 cents and 1 euro. The money would be collected separately from the budget, and the funds would be earmarked for programmes for preventing and reducing the damage caused by smoking. Tobacco retailers would be required to obtain a licence, and the Ministry proposes that the licence fee amount to 200 euros for each vending outlet; this would net an estimated 1.3 m euros a year. The licences and fines, which would determine licence extensions  , would be listed in a registry, which the Ministry plans to set up in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Administration within 1 year. To crack down on offenders, the Ministry proposes to use minors, with the consent of their parents, to identify sellers of tobacco products to minors. 

During the public discussion that ended on World Health Day, 7 April 2016, the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) suggested several amendments to increase the effectiveness of the proposed act in reducing the prevalence and consequences of the use of tobacco and related products. The NIPH also proposed the introduction of plain packaging for all tobacco products – not just cigarettes and rolling tobacco – as well as measures to reduce the number and density of tobacco sales outlets, restrictions on the types of outlet and provisions concerning their distance from places where children, adolescents and young people gather (e.g. schools).

The NIPH supports amendment of the definition of "closed spaces" and proposes that the possibility of smoking rooms be excluded because of frequent, escalating violation of the law on smoking rooms and in order to meet the highest standards of health and fulfilment of the country's obligations under the WHO FCTC. The NIPH also supports prohibition of smoking in vehicles and in the presence of pregnant women, not only in the presence of children. They also propose an increase in the earmarked tax, which will go into a designated fund at the Ministry of Health and would include taxes on all types of tobacco products. The price per pack of cigarettes would be increased to the next whole number. The increases for other types of tobacco products shall be determined so as to reduce the differences between the prices of different types of product. This would lead to fewer transitions to cheaper forms of smoking, increase motivation to quit and reduce initiation of smoking among children, adolescents and young people. According to the NIPH, other products containing nicotine and subsidiary products for smoking should also be covered by the act and included in some of the provisions, such as the bans on advertising and promotion and on sales to minors.

The newly proposed law must now be cleared by the Government before being submitted to the Parliament in the coming months.

The Slovene Press Agency published an exclusive interview with Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO Regional Director for Europe.