Parliament passed the anti-smoking bill despite the opposition's warning of what could be a negative economic impact
The Armenian parliament has passed an anti-smoking bill prohibiting smoking in public transport, closed premises and medical facilities, the violation of which will be punishable by a large fine.
The opposition opposed its adoption, pointing out possible negative effects on the economy. But the decision was made on the justification of the ruling party that the health of society is more valuable than economic benefits.
Where can you no longer smoke?
Ten days after the official publication of the law, it will no longer be possible to smoke in hospitals and clinics, kindergartens, schools and universities, on playgrounds, in administrative buildings and on the territories of cultural monuments.
Some changes will come into force a little later. For example, smoking in hotels, pensions and resorts will be banned from May 1, 2020. And from March 15, 2022 it will be impossible to smoke in closed rooms of restaurants, bars and cafes.
Moreover, starting in 2021, cigarette vendors will not be allowed to display them in windows or advertise tobacco products in stores. Warnings of health effects due to smoking will have to take up 50% of the packaging starting in 2022.
How big will the fine be?
Violators of the law will face a fine of 50 times the minimum wage, which amounts to 68,000 AMD or $143.
The law is especially strict in relation to those who violate it in the performance of their official duties. They face a fine of 100 to 200 times the minimum wage. And if someone breaks the law twice within three months, he will have to pay double the amount.
For and against in parliament
Opposition Bright Armenia stated that the economic consequences of the adoption of this law have not been taken into account, while ruling My Step party MPs insisted that public health is more important than economic profit.
“When our family or friends get sick, do we think about money? Thinking about our health, do we think about money, economic benefits? We don’t think. How many of us will sell our kidney to buy a car? Nobody will do that. Why then should we do it on a statewide scale, sell health in order to buy material goods,” said MP Arman Egoyan.
Continuation of anti-smoking campaign
An anti-smoking strategy was adopted by the previous government in August 2017. Former Minister of Health Levon Altunyan announced his intention to reduce the number of smokers by 30-40 percent:
“More than 55 percent of adult men and three percent of women smoke in Armenia. Therefore, we propose to ban smoking in public places. The restaurants will not have separate rooms for smokers, because the goal of our struggle is not to not smoke when non-smokers, but not to smoke at all.”
Arsen Torosyan, who replaced him after the “velvet revolution” of 2018, continued the struggle for the adoption of the anti-tobacco law. He insisted that a sharp increase in cigarette prices was needed – by 45 percent. Arsen Torosyan assured that this would prevent 88,000 per year.
Torosyan earlier floated the idea of completely banning tobacco use, however the Prime Minister was sent on a smoother transition.
“You want a time machine, you say, let’s do it right away. But this does not happen. This path leads to disaster,” Nikol Pashinyan said at the time.