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Health Ministry withdraws effort to restrict sales of cigarettes

Cigarettes in Slovakia will most likely be sold as they now are in multiple kinds of stores, the SITA newswire reported, as the Health Ministry has withdrawn a proposed change in its draft law based on objections received from a number of parties.

Cigarettes in Slovakia will most likely be sold as they now are in multiple kinds of stores, the SITA newswire reported, as the Health Ministry has withdrawn a proposed change in its draft law based on objections received from a number of parties.

Originally the ministry wanted to restrict sale of cigarettes to a single point of sale or to one cigarette stand based on a revision to the law on protection of non-smokers. The ministry sought to better control the age of cigarette buyers and reduce the number of children smoking.

The Slovak Association of Commerce and the Tourism and Agriculture Ministry, as well as the Finance Ministry opposed the restriction, claiming that it would slash consumption of legally-produced tobacco products and increase illegal activities and fraud.

"Such restriction would increase evasion of tobacco excise tax and reduce income of the state budget from collected excise taxes on tobacco products," argued the Finance Ministry, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The Health Ministry also gave in to reservations about increasing fines for violation of the law on protection of non-smokers. The minimum fine was originally supposed to be increased from its current €331 to €3,319 but neither the Economy Ministry nor the Justice Ministry agreed, considering it inappropriate or even liquidating and therefore "predisposed to lead to corrupt behaviour".

The Health Ministry eventually cut the bottom limit of the fine to €500. An increase in the maximum fine from €3,319 to €15,000 remained unchanged in the proposed amendment.

The proposed draft bill has undergone a few more changes: a ban on smoking would apply to all facilities serving food, including those where meals are not prepared but delivered from other facilities and served. The ban on smoking would also apply to community centres as well as fairgrounds and all sports grounds.

The Health Ministry submitted the amendment for interdepartmental review at the end of May. If approved by parliament it will take effect in the beginning of 2012.

Source: SITA

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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