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D.Baigalmaa: People ask who would monitor the cigarette consumption in streets and apartment corridors. It is us, civil citizens, who are in charge of monitoring

By M.ZOLJARGAL

Below is an interview of Undesnii Shuudan Newspaper with D.Baigalmaa, senior expert of the Social Health Department of the Ministry of Health regarding the Tobacco Control Law of Mongolia.

-The Tobacco Control Law will come into force from March 1. Can you give our readers exact information on where the citizens are banned from smoking and other essential information?

-The Tobacco Control Law clearly states where cigarettes can be sold and where it is banned to smoke. The law also increased the accountability of citizens who and organizations which violate the Tobacco Control Law. In detail, the range of places banned from smoking has been widened including restaurants, night clubs, movie theatres and performance centres, aircrafts, trains, hotels, kindergartens, universities, as well as schools and their dormitories. Surrounding areas of the abovementioned places, parks, public apartment corridors, and lifts were included in the banned smoking places as well. In addition, it also banned to smoke at wooded steppe zones, petrol stations, storages, and inside companies. For instance, each company regardless of level or whether it is governmental or nongovernmental shall obey the law. When smoking is banned inside company premises, people start to gather and smoke outside the entrances or some corners outside. Such things are all banned in accordance with the law.

-Let’s say a person is smoking in the street or inside an apartment corridor. Who shall report, catch, and fine them?

-People have been asking from us who will monitor those people smoking in banned places or areas. It is all of us including civil citizens, police, and other officials in charge of monitoring. As for companies, their administrators must manage these issues. They must include that they have become smokeless companies in their internal affairs regulation. “No smoking” signs must be put everywhere at lobbies, restrooms, and places where the public gather. Specialised inspectors will directly act on banned places and fine violators. The law clearly states that governors of soums, khoroos, bags, districts, and provinces; authorities; and the police are to fine citizens who violate the law.

Company directors have started cooperating with us indirectly. Citizens are advised to give up on smoking without anyone’s demand instead of smoking discreetly. The reason we included companies is to completely enforce the law in the public range, not because the state is trying to catch people smoking and to fine them, but to obey the law unconditionally.

A healthier urban city social culture must be followed in Ulaanbaatar City. Therefore, this law will contribute to reaching such a culture from March 1.

Apart from this fact, citizens must demand others to stop smoking not only for their own health but also for others’. If companies won’t start following the law by March 1, they will be fined with a minimum of three million MNT. Citizens who smoke in banned places will be fined with 50 thousand MNT while officials will be fined with 10 to 25 times more than the minimum monthly wage. Legal personalities will be also charged with this amount. Those who earned profit through the illegal sale of cigarettes will have both their sales and cigarettes confiscated.  Companies which don’t curb their employees’ smoking will be fined with three million MNT while individuals, shops, and trade markets which sell cigarettes by the stick will be charged with a fine of one million MNT.

-Lately, our youth is seen smoking everywhere they go. But the law states that smoking and selling cigarettes in areas where children study or gather is banned. Is there any study conducted to support this fact?

-In accordance with the Mongolian Tobacco Control Law, smoking and the sale of cigarette are banned within a 500-metres radius of general education schools, kindergartens, universities, and their dormitories. The reason we passed such a strict law is to reduce the widespread consumption of cigarette amongst children. While the smoking rate of girls was rather low which was four percent before, the rate increased to seven percent in recent years. We have conducted major nationwide studies in 2005 and 2010. Citizens were classified into groups according to their age.  While smoking amongst 18 to 24 and 24 to 34 aged citizens were reduced, it was double amongst the children and the youth aged between 15 and 24. Almost everyone noticed that smoking amongst the youth has increased dramatically. Therefore, we will strictly fight against massive smoking at general education schools and universities.

-I heard citizens will have to buy cigarettes only after showing their identification cards which prove they are 21 years old or above. Do you think salespeople will check their identification diligently?

-To prevent the hazardous habit of smoking amongst children, the law amended the approved age to smoke. It was 18, but now those who are 21 years old or above will be able to purchase cigarettes. Therefore, citizens will be obligated to show their identification from now on. As salespeople who sell cigarettes to minors will be fined, they won’t do careless things in my opinion. We hope that such identification card checking before selling will become a regular practice in the future. When we studied the case, there are many small stores around schools which sell cigarettes by the stick. Such stores will be fined with one million MNT if detected.

-Cigarette consumption is now banned in certain areas. But how about the domestic cigarette manufacturers? The importation of cigarettes is massive, too. Reducing cigarette consumption without limiting cigarette manufacturing and import sounds quite unpromising. What can you say about it?
-I tried to conduct a study on how many cigarettes are regularly imported to Mongolia in June 2012. But the final result was problematic. Therefore, I’m planning to officially conduct an economic study on the issue this year. There’s an estimate that cigarette importation and domestic manufacturing rates have both increased by 10 to 15 times in the past years. The reason luring the children to smoke is the availability and consumption of cigarettes everywhere. It is so easy to buy a cigarette and smoke it wherever. The youth start smoking when they see others smoking. Thus, we are reducing the number of places allowed to sell cigarettes and to smoke.

-Smoking in restaurants and night clubs is banned. The owners of such places are quite upset regarding the law as it may decrease the amount of their profit. Are people expressing their disapproval like this?

-Some owners of restaurants and night clubs are quite worried about it. They are thinking their customer number would dramatically decrease if the law is enforced. But we are assuring them that they won’t experience any financial loss. Our youth is starting to refuse smoking in such places on their own recently. I presume they are realising it is important to respect other people’s interest in public places

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