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Tobacco Use Survey Shows Romania Has Dramatically Reduced Secondhand Smoke Exposure – But Must Redouble Efforts to Stop Rising Tobacco Use Rates

Statement of Joshua Abrams, Director of Eurasia Programs for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
September 24, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A newly-released survey of adult tobacco use in Romania shows significantly reduced rates of exposure to secondhand smoke, a bright spot for public health in the country. However, the survey released today by the Romanian health ministry also shows the government must act strongly to reduce rising overall rates of adult tobacco use.

Romania’s second Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) found that secondhand smoke exposure declined by 90 percent in restaurants and nearly 70 percent in indoor workplaces, government buildings, bars and nightclubs between 2011 and 2018. These dramatic declines were made possible by the government’s strong implementation of a comprehensive smoke-free law passed in 2016. Scientific evidence is clear that the only effective way to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke is to implement comprehensive smoke-free environments by banning smoking in all indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues.

GATS is a nationally representative survey of adult tobacco use using a consistent and standard protocol across countries including Romania. While Romania’s latest survey covers traditional tobacco products like cigarettes as well as electronic cigarettes, it is the first GATS in the world to include questions on heated tobacco products.

Despite the bright spots in reducing tobacco use in Romania, the survey also shows adult tobacco use in Romania increased significantly by over 14 percent between 2011 and 2018, and the number of quit attempts declined by 37 percent. While the Romanian government has taken strong action to adopt and implement tobacco control measures as mandated by the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), more can and should be done.

To reverse this trend, the government must take immediate action to ensure all Romanians are protected from tobacco and nicotine addiction. The national smoke-free law must be expanded to include heated tobacco products. Existing regulations protecting consumers, including youth, from misleading tobacco marketing must also be revisited to add marketing for heated tobacco products, including at the point of sale. The price of tobacco must be raised by increasing excise taxes. Raising tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among youth and lower-income people.

The government of Romania must also be proactive in exploring how to further regulate electronic cigarettes, which pose new challenges to governments and advocates dedicated to protecting youth and reducing tobacco use. In its Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2019 the World Health Organization recommends that countries “that have not banned electronic nicotine delivery systems like electronic cigarettes should consider regulating them as harmful products, and governments should implement the regulatory measures that they determine are most appropriate for their domestic context.”

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds Romania for successfully addressing some aspects of tobacco use. At the same time, we urge the Romanian government to strongly adopt and implement all of the measures called for by the WHO FCTC. Without urgent action, tobacco use will claim one billion lives worldwide this century.