The law becomes tougher; will it be easier to smoke?

The law becomes tougher; will it be easier to smoke?

IBNA Special Report/Anti-smoking law changes again, smokers will also be penalized

Tirana, July 11, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

In Albania, parliament has approved another law, which is different to that approved about ten years ago on the fight against smoking. Under the new measures, bar owners and their administrators who break the law will be fined. Financial fines are higher. Those who break this law will be fined up to 5 million ALL or 35 thousand Euros.

The novelty of the law is that for the first time, customers who smoke in closed premises will be fined with 5 thousand ALL.

Minister of Health, Ilir Beqaj says that the existing law has not been managed to be fully applied and be fully efficient throughout these years.

He explains the changes in the law that relate to the increase of the fines issued against bar owners and their administrations, who break the law. “The essence of the changes relates to the increase of inspection power for its application, the increase of punishing measures in cases of breaches and the improvement of communication and public information to raise the awareness about the damages that come from smoking, but also to prevent or publicly denounce violation cases”, says Mr. Beqaj.

SMI lawmaker, Petrit Vasili is skeptic about the implementation of the law for the third time, because according to him, the mechanisms of enforcing the payment of the fine have not changed. He says that the involvement of inspectorates makes the powers of each one of them smaller. Vangjel Tavo MP suggests that the incomes generated from fines must not go to the state budget, but to the health care. Based on the law, “100% of the revenues generated from the fines that are issued, go to the state budget”.

DP lawmaker, Bedri Mihaj suggests that the law should incorporate designated smoking spaces. Nevertheless, parliament also incorporated taxis, as public transport means where smoking is not allowed and also kinder gardens as educational institutions where smoking is prohibited.

Under the new law, categories on their own are “common spaces in obligatory joint residential buildings” and smoking in these spaces is prohibited.

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The new changes in the law aim to restore the prohibition of smoking in Albania. When the law was approved for the first time, it was rigorously enforced for several weeks. After that, smoking went back to previous dimensions.

Some say that the total prohibition of smoking in bars, restaurants and other premises not only protects those who do not smoke, but it also violates human rights for those who smoke.

“To me it’s absurd that tobacco is sold everywhere and under the new law, it means prohibiting its sale even at the corner shop where it’s usually sold. If they consider smoking as deadly, then they should prohibit it totally and not impose such restrictions”, says Andrea, a 48 year old man from Tirana, manager of a private company which distributes soaps.

Mariana is a civil servant in Tirana. She’s 55 years old and she’s an old smoker. “Price of tobacco has been increased and almost reached prices of Greece and Italy. The government cannot be  cruel to the point as to increase prices and make them equal to European prices and leave salaries unchanged”, says Mariana irritated.

In fact, the price of tobacco has significantly increased. From 2006 until 2014, excise has gone up from 25 ALL to 90 ALL. As a result, the price of cigarettes goes to 2.8 Euros a packet. In other non EU countries, such as FYROM, Kosovo and Montenegro, price of cigarettes is much lower. /ibna/