Sale of alcohol and tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited in Ukraine by law. However, every day we see teens with a bottle of beer and smoking a cigarette. And such "adulthood" is sold just a short distance away from educational institutions, schools in particular. In fact, the problem of availability of alcohol and tobacco for children has been anything but solved. And to estimate its scale ForUm has decided to check what these shops and stalls sell to Kyiv students.

Delivery included

In Solomenski district, many parents complain about a wide range of stalls in Yerevanska street.

As ForUm's correspondent has found, shops are installed 20-30 meters far from the Schoolchildren's Palace,

about 150 meters far from the secondary school #166

and about 100 meters far from the high school #177.

In Donetska street of the same district ForUm's correspondent has spotted a stall right across the street from the school #69.

In Borshchagovka district, full of hot spots by the way, parents complain about a dive bar, located not far from the school #254. At first sight it is a regular convenience store, but near the grocery department there is a small bar counter selling alcohol on tap. The smell in the store is respective.

Well, the location of these shops and stalls does not prove that they sell alcohol and tobacco to children, but the question arises anyway: why would anyone sell this kind of goods right near schools? And to who?

Fighting at all levels

Having received numerous complaints from all over Ukraine, President’s commissioner for children's rights Yuri Pavlenko decided to visit regions in order to see for himself how the land lies. "During the inspection we indeed registered many violations. In all regions of Ukraine we saw that the complaints about proximity of alcohol and tobacco stalls to schools are grounded. We have responded to all specific cases, but public monitoring proves these stalls are too many. Thus, I have addressed local authorities to take all legal measures to protect children's rights to health and life safety," he said.

Moreover, the official ordered to carry out unscheduled inspections of entrepreneurs selling goods near schools. "Unfortunately, the law obliges inspectors to inform entrepreneurs 10 days before actual inspection. I believe this norm must be cancelled for agencies to carry out more efficient control. We also believe it is necessary to reenact the norm banning the sale of alcohol and cigarettes within 300 meters around schools and to reinstate the right of local authorities to prohibit sale of alcohol and cigarettes on certain territories. Such norm had been stipulated by the law before, but was withdrawn in 2010, when the parliament amended the legislation. The reasons included deregulation and protection of entrepreneurs' rights. However, the Convention on children's rights, the one Ukraine joined long time ago, clearly says that interests of children must be above anything else, including economy," Pavlenko added.

The official also specified that the matter did not concern the demolition of stalls and shops located near kindergartens and schools, but the ban on selling alcohol and tobacco goods. "Let them sell notebooks, pens, juices, buns, but not beer," he explained. 

In turn, public organizations propose more drastic measures. "Firs of all, beer must be recognized as alcohol. It is ridiculous that our legislation does not provide for this definition. If Ukraine approves this initiative, it will be illegal to sell beer in facilities less than 20 square meters in area, which means beer will disappear from stalls and shops, installed near schools," coordinator of the Coalition of public organizations "For Ukraine free of tobacco smoke" Anna Hopko says.

"Today, near the Maydan metro station, I've taken a picture of older ladies selling cigarettes by the piece. The law prohibits such activity, but only two cities of Ukraine (Lviv and Vynnytsya) observe this law. This issue is important, because for a teen, for example, it is expensive to buy a whole pack of cigarettes, while buying one or two cigarettes is not a problem. Moreover, it is easier to hide them from parents. For this we must strengthen control over observance of the law," she noted.

Fortunately, a positive trend can be noticed. Thus, according to Anna Hopko, the number of teens "tasting adulthood" through cigarettes and alcohol, has been decreasing for the last 2-3 years, but still it is too early to celebrate. The fight against the use of alcohol and smoking among teens continues. And participants must include not only the authorities and police. No matter how far you move those old ladies or alcohol stalls, if a child wants to try a glass of beer or a cigarette, he will find a way. Even total parental control cannot guarantee the success. Thus, along with fighting for children's right to health and life safety, we should not forget to talk to our children about all sides of life, including bad habits and ways to resist the temptation.

Tetyana Hryhoriyeva, photos by Viktor Kovalchuk


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