It’s two years now since smokers cannot light a cigarette in public places thus “theoretically” protecting the health of non-smokers. EU members –including Hungary– pay special attention to reduce the number of smokers. The Council of Health Ministers will decide about the latest EU law against smoking on 14th of March.
Over the past few years the rules and prohibitions on smoking and the sales of tobacco goods have been changed. Since 1 January, 2012 it’s no longer allowed to smoke indoors in public places, in the immediate vicinity of public institutions, as well as at bus stops and railway stations. Each catering establishment, restaurant and entertainment place can decide themselves whether they want to designate a kind of tent as an open smoking area for their customers or not. However, the National Public Health and Medical Officer Service (ÁNTSZ) pointed out that if these tents are lockable, they are considered as enclosed places, so smoking is prohibited there. The majority of the smoking offences took place in these restaurants and entertainment venues last year, thus more than 3 million forints has been imposed on those lighting cigarettes at non-smoking public areas like railway stations and bus stops.
Furthermore, the government regulates not only the price but the place where tobacco ca be bought. In order to reduce the youth smoking, only in National Tobacco Stores (nearly 6,000 in Hungary) can sell cigarettes and tobacco goods since last summer. Pricing, but even the packaging is strictly controlled and became more expensive. The national tax office (NAV) and ÁNTSZ have been monitoring each store and their products more frequently. A pack of cigarette’s price has risen from HUF 600 to HUF 1000 during the last two years. That means a pack of cigarettes now is 40% more expensive.
Additionally, the European Union wants to redesign the tobacco packages, too. Health warning photos should be placed on the 65% of each pack’s surface. At present only the 30% – 40% is covered by such photos. The Council of Health Ministers is going to discuss the issue on 14th of March.
The latest changes are entered into force on the 1st of March. This means that there are new, unified types of signs and subtitles at the non-smoking locations. The tables and indications must be replaced not only at the public transports and stops, but also in pubs, restaurants and public institutions. All new signs should be understandable for everyone and posted in a prominent place, subtitled in 4 languages (English, German, French and Russian). Now owners should be expecting even tighter control and punishments.
All in all, the government and the EU are pleased; they significantly managed to reduce the number of smokers in Hungary – according to Miklós Szócska, the Under-secretary of Health. He also noted that there is 200,000 people less smokers today than a year ago, mainly because of their price and not because of the tobacco rules and prohibitions. Statistically, due to the anti-smoking steps all over the EU, governments could decrease the number of smokers.
But the era of tightening rules for tobacco is far from over…
Written by Valentina Leanyfalvi
I’m visiting Hungary for the first time in October, and judging by this article I assume it will be fairly unenjoyable due to official hostility towards smokers. Fortunately, the second half of the trip will be spent in Austria, a country that still prizes individual and social freedom.
There should be more restrictions in place in Hungary and Austria so that cancers don’t occur.
Well done, Hungary. I wish other countries in the East of Europe, like Bulgaria, would demonstrate similar level of law-enforcement and responsibility for the public good. Austria is an embaressment.