New laws to reduce access to tobacco products for youth in Ukraine

Despite the significant progress made in tobacco control in Ukraine over the last decade, the process of strengthening tobacco legislation remains slow. The Ukrainian nongovernmental organizations Life and Coalition for Smoke-Free Ukraine, as well as international partners, are urging policy-makers to consider two draft tobacco control laws before 31 May 2017 – World No Tobacco Day. Draft law 2820 contains a ban on flavoured cigarettes and provisions for enlarging warnings about the dangers of smoking and mandating their placement on both sides of the pack. It also seeks to remove tobacco advertising from the Internet, forcing tobacco producers to provide accurate information about the contents of cigarettes. Draft law 4030 proposes banning the display of cigarettes in shop windows and better protecting people from tobacco smoke by increasing smoke-free public spaces and strengthening law enforcement of smoking bans. This will hopefully help reduce the attractiveness and the prevalence of smoking, especially among children.

Dr Marthe Everard, WHO Representative and Head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, emphasized the importance of both draft laws to be enacted in the near future. “The proposed public health tools are effective for the reduction of tobacco use, especially among young people and socially vulnerable groups. We fully support the draft laws to be approved by the Members of Ukrainian Parliament. These laws will clearly express the strong commitment of the Government of Ukraine to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC],” Dr Everard said.

NCD prevention and health promotion in Ukraine

Given that tobacco use is a key risk factor for cardiovascular and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), tobacco control is a top priority of the ongoing joint Ministry of Health–WHO Project “Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) prevention and health promotion in Ukraine”. The holistic approach of the project aims to unite efforts on the national, regional and community levels in order to reduce the negative impact of tobacco on health through better policies and behaviour change campaigns. One of the project’s initiatives is the launch of a smoking cessation service, which is already functioning in a test mode.

Since 2006, Ukraine has made a step forward in implementing the WHO FCTC and has achieved encouraging results. In 2012, Ukraine introduced pictorial health warnings to cover 50% of both sides of cigarette packs. All types of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship are prohibited now, and a law on smoke-free environments has come into force. According to national data, from 2008 to 2016 tobacco tax revenues increased from Hrv 3.5 billion to almost Hrv 33 billion, while cigarette sales decreased from 124 billion to 73 billion cigarettes. Moreover, during 2008–2014 smoking prevalence decreased by 12%.

Sustainable Development Goal Target 3.a specifically commits countries to strengthening the implementation of the WHO FCTC, within the overarching framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.