Ljubljana, 09 November (STA) - The government proposed on Thursday a ban on flavours in all heated tobacco products, the only exception being the taste of tobacco, as well as in electronic cigarettes, bar the tastes of tobacco and mint. Also put forward was a ban on smoking rooms, meaning a full ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces.
Health Minister Valentina Prevolnik Rupel told the press that legislative changes, which transpose an EU directive, were needed in the face of rapidly increasing use of electronic cigarettes among children and young people.
She stressed that electronic cigarettes contain numerous harmful, carcinogenic and irritating substances, one of the key ingredients being nicotine, which is highly addictive and has harmful effects on the cardiovascular system, lungs and the development and functioning of the brain in adolescents.
"More and more research is showing that among adolescents who otherwise do not smoke, the use of electronic cigarettes raises the likelihood of them starting to smoke regular cigarettes too by up to four times," the minister added.
The plan is to ban characteristic flavours, such as fruit, spices, herbs, alcohol, candies, vanilla for all heated tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, except for the taste or smell of tobacco or mint.
"Most teenagers start using electronic cigarettes precisely because of the different flavours," Prevolnik Rupel said. She warned that flavours reduce the perception of harmfulness, inhalation is more pleasant because it facilitates the start and also the continuation of use.
Following the example of Denmark and Estonia, monitoring and analyses of harmful substances are meanwhile envisaged for the allowed flavours of tobacco and mint.
Furthermore, while indoor smoking in public and workplaces was banned in Slovenia already in 2007, exceptions have been permitted via special smoking rooms or cabins, for instance in bars and airports.
The government has now decided for a full ban, with the minister saying that "despite ventilation, filtration and other technical measures, smoking rooms have proven to be ineffective protection against exposure to tobacco smoke".
She added that international organisations have classified Slovenia among countries with incomplete protection from exposure to tobacco smoke due to the possibility of smoking rooms, which also worsens the international assessment of Slovenian tobacco control policy.
Moreover, the EU directive being transposed also introduces general, informative and combined health warnings on the packaging of heated tobacco products modelled on what has been in force for other tobacco products. The changes also equalise the regulatory treatment of e-cigarettes and liquids, i.e. fillers with and without nicotine.
Meanwhile, to address black market issues and secure more effective implementation, the government moreover supplemented a number of control and penalty provisions, providing for the cooperation of several supervisory bodies and covering more violations.
Individuals will not be allowed to sell and import tobacco products in large quantities. While a ban on selling these products online has been in place since 2017, the proposed changes prohibit individuals from importing them from third countries.
"These are products that often violate the law, especially in terms of the allowed content of nicotine and other harmful substances, and it is practically impossible to sanction the providers of these products from third countries," Prevolnik Rupel explained.
She believes that all the proposed measures are necessary to protect the health of the entire population, especially children and adolescents. They will contribute to the sustainability of the Slovenian health system in the future and help Slovenia become a tobacco-free society by 2040, the minister added.
The proposed changes are the latest in a long series of anti-smoking measures in Slovenia. In 2017, for instance, a smoking ban was introduced in private cars when minors are present, 2020 saw the introduction of uniform packaging, and 2022 brought a display ban at sales points.
Over 3,100 people die from smoking in Slovenia every year, or nine people every day. There are 1,563 new cases of lung cancer a year, with nine out of ten cases thought to be linked to smoking.