Fight for Tobacco Free Armenia Continues

31may(2) (4)The Center for Health Services Research and Development, American University of Armenia (CHSR/AUA) in collaboration with the Coalition for Tobacco Free Armenia organized a walk dedicated to the World No Tobacco Day.

The aim of the walk was to bring the attention of the society to this problem and raise public awareness about the tobacco control legislation in Armenia and health hazards of secondhand smoke and empower non-smokers to protect their right to breathe smoke-free air.

The advocates for non-smokers’ rights walked from the American University of Armenia to downtown Yerevan carrying banners “Living without smoke is our right”, “Stop smoking in public places”, and others.   They engaged the residents of Yerevan in face-to face dialog persuading smokers not to smoke next to non-smokers and encouraging non-smokers to protect their right for smoke-free air at worksites and other public places.  The participants of the walk provided flyers on health hazards of smoking as well as information about tobacco control regulations in public places and a hot-line number.

The walk paused in front of the Youth Foundation of Armenia (YFA), where YFA and the Coalition for Tobacco Free Armenia organized a press conference on the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).

This year the WNTD theme was the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The treaty entered into force in February 2005 and has become one of the most widely embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations with more than 170 parties covering 88% of the world’s population. Armenia joined the WHO FCTC in 2004 and passed several legislative changes in tobacco control since then.

The Coordinator of the Coalition for Tobacco Free Armenia Diana Petrosyan mentioned that the Government of RA presented a new package of tobacco control legislative changes (to improve the enforcement mechanisms) to the National Assembly which was included in the agenda since February 2011 and was not discussed yet. She informed that the Coalition wrote a letter to the Chairman of the National Assembly and is hopeful that the package will be discussed soon. Narine Movsisyan, Senior Manager of tobacco control projects of CHSR/AUA emphasized that Armenia was one of the first countries ratifying WHO FCTC but currently was behind compared to other countries in the region: “After more than six years of ratification we have not achieved comprehensive ban on smoking in public places and did not introduce pictorial health warnings on the cigarette packages”.

The Executive Director of the YFA Alexander Ter-Hovakimyan emphasized the role of the civil society in the enforcement of the tobacco control legislation: “In parallel with the legislative changes we should change the mentality and behavior of the population to create demand for the enforcement of tobacco control legislation.”

Alexander Bazarchyan, the Coordinator of the tobacco control program of the Ministry of Health (MOH) informed that MOH is going to introduce new changes to the tobacco control legislation to totally ban tobacco advertisement. He also emphasized the role of the media in creating awareness about tobacco control issues in the country.

After the press conference advocates for non-smokers’ rights continued the activity in public busses and metro.

The events devoted to the WNTD were widely covered by TV, radio, and on-line media.