A TOBACCO firm and tobacco distributors have joined in a project aimed at the prevention of smoking among youth.
The Slovak branch of Philip Morris recently launched the project, called Age Matters, which should educate the general public as well as tobacco dealers about the health risks of smoking, focusing on the young generation.
Starting on July 15, the project is designed to prevent youth from getting access to tobacco products. According to estimates, as many as 55 percent of the Slovak teenagers smoke.
The head of Philip Morris Slovakia said the company organised the project because "active participation in solving the problem of youth smokers is one of the most frequent areas in which the public expects us to take concrete steps."
The project tries to prevent tobacco dealers from making cigarettes available to children and also teaches dealers not to sell cigarettes to youth.
The company has decided to address 8,500 tobacco retailers and, apart from providing them with the legislative background in the tobacco field, the shops will receive ban signs stating that customers under 18 will not be sold cigarettes.
The programme has been in place since 1998, states the company's press release, and since then the firm has distributed a total of 50,550 ban signs, 235,000 ban stickers, and also given out over 70,000 letters to parents. If parents send their children to the shop to buy cigarettes, the dealers should refuse to sell to them and hand out a letter that states the health risks related to smoking and the fine that shop owners can receive for selling cigarettes to underage people. The fine is about Sk10,000 (€4,969).
The Slovak Trade Inspectorate (SOI), which monitors Slovak shops' adherence to laws, has also welcomed the activity of the tobacco firm.
"SOI welcomes the initiative. We think that the programme systematically supports the ban of the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 years of age and also warns businesses and parents that this [age] limit exists," said Nadežda Machútová, the director of the inspectorate.
According to Machútová, the situation has improved over the last five years.
She said that in 1999 inspection revealed breaches of the sale ban in 10.6 percent of all monitored cases, while currently the proportion is at around 5 percent.
In cooperation with the Education Ministry, the firm will also start the sixth annual educational project called The Path to Emotional Maturity, which tries to prevent smoking at elementary schools.
6. Sep 2004 at 0:00 | Martina Jurinová