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Romania plans tough antismoking laws

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7093.1501l (Published 24 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1501
  1. Tudor P Toma
  1. Romania

    The Romanian government is planning far reaching legislation against smoking, including a ban on smoking in public places and even while driving. In Romania some 46% of men and 15% of women smoke, and smoking is still seen as harmless and fashionable.

    Under the plans put forward for public debate anyone found smoking in a public place could be fined 25% of their monthly income. A public place is defined as town centres, state institutions, restaurants, cultural and sports institutions, and all workplaces. Smoking in institutions would be allowed only in special designated places, which must display antismoking posters and for which an access charge would be payable.

    Figure1

    In Romania 45% of men smoke

    J G EGAN/HUTCHISON LIBRARY

    One of the most controversial proposals is the banning of smoking while driving. Police would be able to stop a driver seen smoking and give a maximum fine equivalent to £100 ($160). The average monthly income in Romania is £75, and a packet of cigarettes costs £1.

    The plans also propose measures against teenage smoking. Smoking in schools by both students and teachers would be forbidden. If a student was caught smoking he or she could be expelled, and teachers who smoke would have their earnings reduced by 25%.

    Television advertising of tobacco is still unregulated in Romania. Most films shown on television are paid for by tobacco companies who advertise at the beginning and end of the film. Under the new proposals any form of direct or indirect tobacco advertising would be banned.

    Romania, with its population of 23 million, represents a big market for the tobacco companies, and they are expected to lobby hard against the adoption of these proposals. In addition the tobacco industry is an important source of income to the national budget, and it may be that Romania cannot afford to carry out such restrictive policies.

    Professor Paul Stoicescu, the director of the Romanian National Institute of Pulmonary Diseases, who put forward the proposals to parliament, remains optimistic. “In the end this law will save money by reducing disease and medical expenses. We have at least two colleagues in the parliament who are chest physicians, and I am sure they will explain the importance of the law to their fellow MPs. We expect the project to be passed as a law by the end of this year.”