Selected Aspects of Tobacco Control in Croatia

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SUMMARY

This paper seeks to outline the challenges of tobacco consumption control in the transitional economy of Croatia. It focuses on issues of taxation, high unemployment, and smuggling while attempting to meet European Union (EU) accession requirements for tobacco control legislation that reduces smoking consumption. The issue of tobacco control is not a simple one and requires a multi-pronged approach. While Croatia has made good progress in adopting legislation, it needs to strengthen its efforts both in terms of enforcement and increased taxation of cigarettes.

Key words: smoking, tobacco control, workplace, Croatia

INTRODUCTION

Tobacco Control Legislation

Tobacco control legislation has gained prominence at the European Union level and the rest of the world due to the serious medical effects of smoking. It is well known that smoking harms nearly every organ ofthe body, causing many diseases, and reduces quality of life and life expectancy. The highest recorded level of smoking was among men and was first recorded in 1948 when surveys started. At that time, 82% of men were smoking (1). It has been estimated that between 1 950 and 2000, 60 million people worldwide have died from tobacco-related diseases (2). It is further estimated that by 2030 the worldwide death toll due to smoking will be around ten million annually (3).

The concern about smoking has been heightened as evidence mounts about the cost of smoking and the effects of second-hand smoke. Smoking remains the biggest cause of avoidable death in Europe (4).

A "smoke-free Europe" is one ofthe priorities ofthe European Commission's public health, environment, employment and research policy. Substantial steps have already been taken to promote a smoke-free environment in the EU. Progress has been achieved due to legislative efforts and diligent health promotion efforts. In the early nineties, a number of EU health and safety at work directives defined certain restrictions on smoking at work. These were complemented by the Recommendation on Smoking Prevention of 2002 which called on Member States to provide protection from exposure to environmental tobacco in indoor workplaces, enclosed public places, and public transport (5).

National legislation differs widely across Member States. Italy, Malta, Sweden and parts ofthe United Kingdom have been cited as having excellent examples of effective measures to protect their citizens from the harmful effects of smoking. Other countries are less stringent in their legislation to restrict tobacco use. There is, however a clear trend towards smoke-free environments throughout the EU Member States driven by legal requirements and public support at the EU level. For example, many Member States have regulations banning or restricting smoking in major public places, such as health care, educational and government facilities, and public transport.

As a number of new nations emerged in the early nineties following the break up of the former Yugoslavia, there has been a spurt of regulatory initiatives as they have moved toward nation building and inclusion into the European Union. In order to become part ofthe EU, a country is legally obligated to comply with and implement certain legal acts. Tobacco control legislation at the EU level consists of legally binding directives and nonbinding resolutions and recommendations regarding tobacco control (6). Croatia is currently a candidate nation for inclusion in the EU after starting accession negotiations on October 4, 2005 . The government, headed by Prime Minister Ivo Sander has made membership for Croatia in the EU its top priority. Croatia hopes to be admitted to the EU in 2010. As such, the Croatian regulatory framework has been enacted somewhat exogenously by the process of joining the EU. Efforts to reduce tobacco consumption are not straightforward in a new country with both an evolving economy and a change in the political system. …