Saeima cracks down on public smoking

The human right to breathe clean and healthy air free of polluting tobacco smoke trumps the interests of habitual smokers, declares the Law on the Sale, Advertising and Use of Tobacco Products, passed in its final reading at the 11th Saeima’s final regular plenary session Thursday.

The bill contains a number of stringent definitions and restrictions, among them the general principle that smoking in the presence of a non-smoker shall be prohibited should that person express an objection to the activity.

The definition of smoking was extended to cover use of electronic- or e-cigarettes as well.

Public spaces where smoking shall also be prohibited were extended to include territories at medical establishments, social care and rehabilitation facilities and penitentiaries. In addition, multi-story apartment buildings and balconies shall also be off-limits for smokers should any resident express justified objection thereto. As for smoking in the presence of children, their exposure to the risk of second-hand smoke shall also be prohibited by law.

The Saeima struck from the bill only one article which would have raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 year-olds. Retailers objected to the proposed raising of the age because smoking is already allowed by law for 18-year-olds, moreover alcoholic beverage sales are also allowed at that age.

The law further limits the sale of tobacco products, prohibiting it on the internet and on the premises of local and state government institutions (except for the National Armed Forces and at penitentiaries).

A transition period has been set for the sales provisions of the law to take full effect – the provisions will enter into force January 1, 2016, however the rest of the provisions are set to be in force within fourteen days after the President promulgates them.

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