Trying to come close to the European living standards Ukraine has become a non-smoking country.  With the adoption of the new law, Ukrainians can no longer smoke in bus stops, stadiums, underground crosswalks and public transport.  Several drags while drinking beer in a sport bar or smoking water pipe are low illegal. Ukraine has become the 21st country of Europe, where smoking is strictly banned. ForUm has decided to ask around whether the law will stop bus drivers and bar regulars from smoking in public places.

Life without gas mask

A public poll held in 2010 by Kyiv International Sociology Institute revealed that 61% of non-smokers were involuntarily exposed to the smoke. The same poll showed that 95% of non-smokers and 81% of smokers supported the idea to ban smoking indoor and at working place. The ban on smoking in restaurants was supported by 83% of non-smokers and 54% of smokers, meaning the very smokers realized the problem as it is. More than half of respondents admitted that their right for a cigarette is of less priority than the right of another person for clean air.

As former healthcare minister Mykola Polishchuk told ForUm, smokers do harm the people surrounding them. "Medical researches prove that women's DNA absorb carcinogens. Thus, one smoker hurts three people at once - himself, a passing by woman and her future child," he said. And the matter concerns not only female visitors of restaurants, but mainly waitresses, who have to inhale tobacco smoke during the whole shift, which is 12 hours.  

To protect workers of this industry and their families the law bans smoking in a number of places: public eating places (restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.), healthcare institutions, education institutions, children and sport playgrounds, stadiums, communal entrance hallways, underground crosswalks, public transport and cultural institutions. In response to the question of smokers 'what should we do now', anti-tobacco activists say 'go to smoke outside!'

With good intentions...

The law has been criticized not only by smokers and tobacco companies, but also by the lawmakers. "Adoption of the law was accompanied by lies. The ban on smoking in elevators exists since soviet times. Smoking in underground crosswalks is banned by a number of current norms. Among the innovations of this law, they point out the total ban on smoking indoors for children not to inhale tobacco smoke. I'll tell you what, bring children in libraries, not bars or pubs. In fact, parents who bring there children in bars must be deprived of parental rights. We need to introduce total ban on smoking  in or near educational institutions and to let people smoke in bars and pubs," MP of the sixth convocation Taras Chornovil believes.

According to him, this law opens doors for corruption. "The fine used to be fixed, but now it varies from one to ten thousand hryvnias. What can I tell you, it will be pure corruption. The budget will receive no money. Police officers will write on the paper the minimal fine, charge people with the maximum fine and put the difference in their pockets," Chornovil says. Moreover, according to him, the law will hardly reduce the number of smokers.

"It is almost impossible to obtain accurate statistics about the number of smoking and suffering from a disease people. Those structures, which lobby anti-tobacco laws, manipulate the statistics as they see fit. When they need money the number of smokers in Ukraine increases, but when they need to report about the progress, the number of smokers miraculously decreases. In fact, tobacco smoke is not the main enemy of health. For some reason we have stopped fighting alcoholism, pollution and GMO. Thus, I cannot say this law will bring positive changes," the MP said.

In their turn, smokers' rights activists name this law a witch-hunt. "It is typical medieval witch hunt. Representatives of police forces and controlling agencies now have another opportunity to press on business and develop corruption," a representative of "Smokers' rights" public initiative Yuri Paliychuk says.

According to him, European experience has proved that such bans are inefficient. "This practice did not catch on in civilized Europe. EU members start to cancel similar norms of their legislation. In particular, Switzerland has cancelled the ban through referendum, and Ireland and Greece has reduced the list of places subjected for smoking ban. What was wrong with the law proving 50 by 50%? I don't understand. The fact that the law was not observed is a different story. And where is the guarantee that this law will be observed?" Paliychuk wondered. He also points out the first to suffer from this law will be business, not smokers. "Already now restaurant owners complain about outflow of clients. In Poland, for example, two thousand enterprises went bankrupt after the first half a year of operation of such ban. Pretending to fight for waiter's rights, these activists will deprive these very waiters of their jobs," Paliychuk believes. In his opinion, restaurant industry will suffer losses in 2013, while tobacco companies will not even notice the changes.

The same opinion was voiced by one of the biggest tobacco companies in Ukraine. "We cannot comment on this law, as it does not concern us. It concerns smokers and various establishments," the PR service of the company told ForUm.

What should smokers do now

To learn the opinion of workers of public eating places and their smoking clients ForUm visited a number of bars and pubs for aristocracy of talent - places where clients have been smoking since ever.

A Kyiv pub, which has been working for 12 years already, was first to place information about smoking ban. "We put labels about smoking ban everywhere. Some clients complain, but regulars do not stand up and leave. They understand that this is the law and we cannot do anything. Waiters are the happiest, as they do not have to wash their uniforms every day. We do not expect losses, as there are no grounds for this. The law is for everyone, and similar pubs will now compete in menu and interior design," pub administrator Tetyana told us.

Waiters indeed seemed happy. "I've been working as a waitress for five years. And for all this time I had to work in smoky rooms. It is better no. My clothes and hair do not smell smoke any more. Moreover, I don't have to inhale tobacco smoke any longer. I do not smoke and it used to be difficult for me. Clients are not very happy, but I've never seen someone to stand up and leave. They grumble, but go out to smoke. It is cold outside now, so when then come back they always order something warm," Olena says.

Nevertheless, some waiters remain without tips and fear to lose the job. Nastya, a waitress in one of the glamour bars of Kyiv for journalists, actors and writers told us she saw the whole companies of people leaving because of smoking ban. You know, this place has always been a smoking bar. And now we remain without tips and the bar without income. Moreover, due to the emotional nature of the character our clients make a scene and threaten not to come here ever again. But for us, waiters, it is better to work under the ban. We used to fight for the chance to work in a non-smoking room. Everybody wanted to work there," the girl says.

The very smokers were not eager to speak on the subject. Some of them rebelled with the words: why did not they introduce this ban in summer. Others opined that bars and restaurants must take care about conform conditions for all clients, including smokers, who now have to smoke in freezing temperatures.

In turn, restaurant-keepers promise to set warm tents, and for now to put at least smoking stands in order not to turn the territory around bars into one big ashtray.

What non-smokers should do to protect their rights

To introduce a ban is one thing, but to observe it is a different story. Thus, if you sit in a restaurant and someone is smoking, you can:

1. Ask the administration to make the smoker stop smoking and observe the law. If he smokes without an ashtray, he drops litter as a minimum. If there is an ashtray, both the smoker and the administration of the restaurant face a fine up to ten thousand hryvnias if you press charges.

2. If the administration ignores your request, you can write down a complaint in the Recommendations and Concerns, and the state inspection on consumer' rights will be able to carry out a random check.

3. If a smoker ignores your request to stop smoking, you can call the police, which will register the offender and will charge him with a fine.

Tetyana Hryhoriyeva, photos by maxim Trebukhov


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