By Adnan Prekic – Podgorica
The way with which adopted european laws are losing the battle with tradition, is perhaps best demonstrated by the example of the law on banning smoking in public places. This law was passed in mid 2011 and was supposed to ban smoking in all public places. However, the traditional Montenegrin society has a hard time adjusting to the european standards and habits. The problem was that the penalty policy wasn’t harmonized and there weren’t enough inspectors who would check who respected the law. Furthermore, restaurant owners lobbied against the new law, threatening to close their shops, because of the alleged reduction in costumer volume. The government has therefore in 2012 adopted a decree by which restaurateurs that allow smoking have pay a certain tax, and by doing this the law was virtually nullified.
Although the number of smokers in Montenegro has been reduced in recent years, it certainly is not a result of the law on restricting smoking in public spaces. Legislation for banning smoking in public places has almost had zero application, even though statistics registers reduction in the number of smokers. In 2004 42% of the Montenegrin population were smokers. Four years later that percentage dropped to 32% and in 2013 it was around 30%. This indicates that the number of smokers is decreasing, but research shows that every third citizen of Montenegro still smokes.
An additional problem is the high share of tobacco to the overall mortality rate. According to current statistics, every year thousands of people in Montenegro die from the consequences of tobacco use. Data on the use of tobacco products show that the use was reduced among young people (Among 15-year-olds smoking has been reduced by about 1%, while in the population aged 15 years and more, the use of tobacco products was reduced by about 10%).
The law that prohibited smoking was adopted in 2011, but its consistent application lasted just a few months. After the decision of the government in 2012, all restaurant owners who allow smoking in their premises pay tax of one euro per square meter. The plan was that this law would be in effect until January 1, 2014, but the government, using the crisis as an excuse, proposed that this regulation be implemented for another year.
Results in the collection of these taxes are catastrophic and restaurateurs have done everything to avoid paying these fees. Monthly earnings of the state country of these fees are only 10,000 euros, which means that in Montenegro only ten thousand square meters were used as smoking zone. The situation in practice is completely different, since smoking is allowed in almost everywere. Just one hotel for example occupies 6,000 square meters.