Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 21
By Aygun Badalova -Trend:
Everybody knows smoking kills. The "easy" solution of course, is to give it up. As Mark Twain stated: "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times."
It is worth pointing out that everyone makes his own choice, as many smokers often claim. However, you can argue that point too, and the discussions on this topic are wide open. Society today is faced with the consequences the 1950s and '60s when the tobacco industry was allowed to advertise openly top the youth. So how should society today address the problem of smoking - which is really a problem -- and to prevent all the negative consequences that derives from this terrible habit. But this is not a key point in this article.
Rather, we will attempt to find a solution, or perhaps even a compromise which will suit everybody: the smokers who think that the smoking is "their right", and the people whose health is being damaged by the "smoking right" of smokers. To get a balance between them is a perpetual challenge all over the world.
One can say that there should be a complete ban on smoking cigarettes. Maybe. But the question is will there be readiness and willingness to do this? Here we should take into account the fact that governments throughout the world make huge profits from levying taxes on cigarettes.
So, how to solve this problem? Is there a single decision for both smokers and non-smokers? Could they co-exist?
The world's most international tobacco group British American Tobacco has developed the Courtesy of Choice Programme, which promotes tolerance and respect among smokers and non-smokers by offering smoking and non-smoking areas, through signage, in recreational locations such as restaurants, bars and hotels.
Azerbaijan is among the countries with a quite high number of smokers. Azerbaijan ranks 85th among the smoking countries and is 22nd for the number of cigarettes per capita, according to the World Health Organization's May, 2013 report for Azerbaijan. Moreover, the number of smoking people in the country is increasing year-on-year among the schoolchildren aged 13-14.
In Azerbaijan 45 percent of men smoke. Moreover, the number of women-smokers has increased - within six-seven years from three to the current 10 percent, according to researches.
In May 2013 one of Azerbaijani parliament member offered to discuss in the parliament the draft law on the prohibition of smoking in public places. This bill has been prepared by the parliamentary social policy committee and aims to protect non-smokers from such negative impact. At the same time the law "On tobacco and tobacco products," adopted by the parliament a few years ago, actually has not been enforced, and its adoption is still pending.
Smokers and non-smokers in Azerbaijan clash all the time. The striking example is restaurants and cafes in the country. Recently one of my colleagues related the following: she and her husband went out to one of the country's most popular restaurants. Two female customers were quite obviously bothered when a man at a nearby table lit up a cigarette. Without thinking too much, the girls changed their places. The man's action was not illegal - there was not any prohibition to smoke in that restaurant.
"I can not find a right place to go with my family. I don't want my child to breath in air tainted with cigarette smoke," another acquaintance said.
At the same time other restaurants lost regular customers after imposing a ban on smoking.
However, it should be noted that there are some restaurants in the country that provide separate areas for smokers and non-smokers. This is nothing but just some transparent barrier between them - in the most cases smokers sits for example on the left, and non-smokers on the right side, and in fact there is no protection for those who don't smoke.
In this case Azerbaijan may use the experience of France. France is one of the European countries where smoking is banned in all public places. But in spite of the smoking ban in public indoor spaces (restaurants, shopping centers, airports, train stations, hospitals, schools), you can smoke free on the outside terraces that the most of the restaurants have or on sidewalk seating of many establishments.
Another solution could be the so called "ventilation solution," which was proposed by some hospitality organizations as an alternative to 100-percent smoking bans. Ventilation refers to directional airflow occurring in public places and workplaces which allow unenclosed smoking and non-smoking sections. Despite the doubts that this solution can be effective, it has a right to exist, and theoretically it could offer a solution for non-smokers.
So far Azerbaijan remains a country with no bans or restriction on smoking, where the separation of smokers and non-smokers through signage, as well as introduction of air cleaning technologies seem to be the best solution, which would balance the right of both sides.
But don't hold your breath but perhaps you should.