People have died from tobacco-related diseases since the opening of the first FCTC working group on 28 October 1999.
All tobacco packages in Ukraine now have pictorial warnings on the front and back, following a new law which came into place 4 October 2012.
The law requires all tobacco packs to have pictorial health warnings that cover 50 percent of the back side, and text messages covering 50 percent of the front side. Previously, packs in Ukraine had a 30 per cent text message on both sides.
This is a great step forward for tobacco control in Ukraine; however, the move didn’t come without challenges.
Despite legislation being approved by Parliament in 2009, it took until now to go into effect due to unprecedented opposition from the Cabinet of Ministers, said Andriy Skipalaskyi, Smoke Free Ukraine Project Co-ordinator and Chairman of the Board for an NGO called Regional Advocacy Center LIFE.
“Even after Parliament approved the legislation, Ukraine citizens had to conduct an intense advocacy campaign,” Andriy said.
This campaign included an online petition of nearly 400 signatures requesting Ukraine’s Prime Minister to unblock the process and stop all resistance to implementing the law. During the fourth session of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in November 2010, LIFE also collected nearly 300 signatures from tobacco control organisation leaders to add to the petition.
“After numerous publications in the media, press conferences and public actions, the Cabinet of Ministers finally signed Regulatory Act number 306 enabling the health warnings to be introduced in 18 months,” said Andriy.
“This was more than enough time for the tobacco industry to adjust to such changes. At the same time the Ministers excluded two ‘ugly’ pictures out of the list and changed those to ‘less ugly’ ones.
Now that the law is in place, fines for producing and distributing packs without the picture warnings range from 2,000-20,000 UAH ($US250-$2,500). However, old packs without the warnings will remain on the market until they are sold.
Despite the difficulties, there is no doubt that tobacco control in Ukraine is progressing this year. On 16 September a comprehensive tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion bill came into effect, which means that on 17 December 2012 all cafes, bars and restaurants will become 100 percent smoke free.