WHO welcomes proposal for legislation for a smoke-free Hungary

Budapest, Copenhagen, 28 February 2010

On Friday, 25 February 2011, a group of members of the Hungarian Parliament, with Government support, submitted a motion for legislation that would make public places, restaurants, bars and workplaces in the country smoke free. Debate on this proposal starts in Parliament today, 28 February. WHO/Europe welcomes this initiative.

“This is very good news for the health of the people of Hungary. Countries across the European Region are introducing smoke-free public places and workplaces, and the evidence is that it really works,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Not only does it have a major impact on the amount of smoke that people are exposed to, and their health, but people have accepted it. It has met with support from the public and had positive effects on business.”

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which 46 countries in the European Region have ratified so far, strongly supports smoke-free initiatives. Governments are finding that the health gains from taking action hugely outweigh the perceived political costs, and one country after another is introducing tough legislation to combat smoking.

Tobacco is the leading risk factor for premature mortality in the European Region, causing about 1.6 million deaths a year. WHO is committed to reducing the global burden of disease and death caused by tobacco, and protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Experience of other countries

Two countries illustrate the experience of the many that have taken action: England (United Kingdom) and Turkey.

England: smoke-free legislation welcomed by both the public and business

England introduced new legislation in 2007 to make virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces in England smoke-free. This brought dramatic improvements. The air quality in pubs moved from being rated as “unhealthy” to levels that are comparable to outdoor air. Non-smoking bar workers, who were inhaling 4–6 times more cigarette smoke than the average non-smoking adult, could breathe cleaner air at work. As for the public, demand for local smoking-cessation services has risen over 20%, as smokers have benefited from environments more conducive to quitting.

Compliance with smoke-free legislation in the United Kingdom has been consistently high from the very beginning:

  • 98% of all premises and vehicles inspected between July 2007 and March 2008 were smoke free, complying with the law; and
  • 87% of all premises and vehicles are displaying the correct no-smoking signage.

Good enforcement results partially from wide public support, including from business. The general public and business support the smoke-free law and have quickly adapted to its requirements:

  • 76% of people support laws for smoke-free workplaces and public places;
  • 70% consider that creating smoke-free environments has had a positive effect on the health of people in England;
  • 81% of business decision-makers think the law is “a good idea”; and
  • 87% of businesses said implementation of the law had gone well or very well.

Indeed, 40% of businesses even reported that the law had had a positive impact on them. Only 3% reported a negative impact.

Turkey: positive impact on business

Turkey went smoke free in two phases, starting in 19 May 2008 in workplaces and public places and extending the ban on 19 July 2009 to include restaurants, bars, cafés and teahouses. This has brought dramatic improvements. A group of studies showed the impact of implementation on ambient air quality.

An overwhelming majority of Turks (92%) favours the law that prohibits smoking in most indoor places and workplaces, as do 77% of daily smokers favour the law: 79% say they either go out more often or have not changed their dining habits since the law went into effect. Turks support the Government’s work to reduce tobacco use by trying to keep young people from starting to smoke and helping current smokers who want to quit.

Going smoke-free did not have any negative impact on the hospitality sector in Turkey – on the contrary. Based on the records of the Central Bank of Turkey, while the gross national product declined by 3.3% between 2008 and 2009, the income of workplaces in the hospitality industry, such as restaurants and bars, increased by 5.2%. Further, the number of such workplaces increased by 2.7% between the beginning and end of 2009, including increases of 3.5% in those serving food and 3.0% in those serving alcoholic drinks. Also, the amount of value-added tax (VAT) collected and transferred by workplaces in the hospitality industry increased by more than 20% between January and October 2009.

For more information, contact:
Ms Viv Taylor Gee
Communications Adviser, WHO/Europe
Tel.: +45 39 17 12 31, +45 22 72 36 91 (mobile)
E-mail: vge@euro.who.int

Dr Zsofia Puzstai
WHO Country Office, Hungary
Tel.: +36 1 3216080
E-mail: pusztaiz@who.int