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Bulgaria ranks first in terms of smoking in Europe, and our country has already surpassed even Greece, which until recently was first. This was announced by Dr. Gergana Geshanova – Chairwoman of the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Life, who together with Dr. Masha Gavrailova – Chairwoman of the “Bulgaria without Smoke” Association and Pavel Antonov, PhD from the BlueLink Foundation, are starting a civic engagement mission of the political forces with the problems caused by the use of tobacco and related products in Bulgaria.
Within the mission, volunteers and members of the team of the Coalition for a Smoke-free Life will visit the headquarters of the candidates for national representatives and will familiarize them with the demands of civil society for combating smoking.
Gergana Geshanova recalled that our country ranks first in terms of mortality in Europe. Our population is aging and no one is teaching young people how to live healthily so they don’t get sick, she pointed out. Geshanova warns that a quarter of 16-year-olds smoke. Back in 2006, Bulgaria signed, together with more than 180 other countries, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. 16 years have passed since then, and our country should have implemented everything under this convention a long time ago. However, we are only doing what the EU pressures us to do in terms of smoking, said Geshanova.
There is no initiative and no desire for the state to do something to improve the health of the people in Bulgaria, she stated together with her colleagues. They insist that Bulgaria fulfill its obligations under the Framework Convention. That is why the civil mission team is already meeting with representatives of the political forces that are fighting to enter the parliament. Most of the parties have included in their programs measures related to health care and smoking, but they have several important requests from the organizations to fight this vice.
In the first place is the liquidation of outdoor advertising of tobacco products. Our country is one of the remaining 3-4 countries in Europe with billboards of tobacco products. The law in our country allows it, and this must be changed urgently, according to the doctors. In shops, tobacco products are still displayed in a prominent place, most often behind the cash register, which is not the case in the West, because people are reminded to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products. Placing advertisements in a prominent place is unacceptable if we care about the health of our nation, commented Dr. Geshanova.
According to her and her colleagues, the sponsorship of tobacco companies should be banned. Nowhere in the west is it advertised what causes and campaigns tobacco companies are involved in. According to official data, the products these companies market kill half of their users.
The civil pressure team insists that more authorities such as the police, for example, be involved in the control of the smoking ban in closed public places, as is the case in Western Europe. The district health inspectorates involved in the inspections have very few employees who cannot supervise effectively.
Last but not least, the experts insist on increasing the excise tax on tobacco products, which is a powerful factor in limiting smoking. If the price of cigarettes increases, first the more vulnerable part of the population will decide not to smoke, Gergana Geshanova pointed out.