On May 30, in the third and final reading the Latvian Parliament unanimously adopted amendments to the law “Protection of the Rights of the Child” which among other things contain the following:”Physical abuse is intentional application of force that threatens the health or life of a child in contacts with the child, including deliberate exposure of a child to the effects of harmful factors, including tobacco smoke.”
Latvia has become the first country in the world where smoking in the presence of a child regardless of the environment, a street or a private apartment, is a violation of the law and will be considered a criminal act.
In Europe, 700 000 people every year die of direct effects of smoking, but tens of millions of smokers die prematurely of cardiovascular diseases, cancer or lung diseases. More than 60% of smokers in Europe acquired the habit because their parents were smokers, smoked in the presence of children and left the cigarettes unattended. Moreover, when smoking in the presence of their children, parents send an implied message that smoking is not to be condemned as mom or dad does it.
Recent studies reveal that the foetus can become addicted to nicotine if a pregnant woman smokes or has to breathe in tobacco smoke regularly.
Unfortunately, children are dependent on their parents or other adults and do not have sufficient information and life experience to assess the dangers of smoking. Similarly, disabled people and those who do not possess decision making capacity should be protected from smoking in their presence.
The Ministry of Health of Latvia together with the Latvian Medical Association put forward further legislative proposals to reduce smoking, especially among children and youth. Currently the Latvian Parliament is reviewing amendments to the law “On Restrictions Regarding Sale, Advertising and Use of Tobacco Products”. Latvia aims at legislation providing that any non-smoker has the human right to breathe clean air instead of smokers having the right to smoke. Hence, the next amendment to the Law will stipulate that in Latvia smoking in the presence of other people (on the street, in a park, public places, private territories) is permissible only after receiving their consent. In Latvia smoking is already prohibited in cafes, restaurants, clubs, sports stadiums and halls, workplaces and public premises. Now balconies, terraces, staircase and many other places where smoking can inconvenience other people will be added to the list.
Latvia supports designing plain cigarette packets like in Australia, namely, 100% of the packet’s design informs about the harmful effects of cigarettes. However, understanding the different experiences of European countries, Latvia’s proposal is a draft law providing that 75% of the packet’s design carries information on the dangers of smoking, and calls on all European countries follow suit. Latvia’s proposition: Smoke free Latvia in 2020, smoke free Europe in 2025.