- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 30, 2003 

Health Up in Smoke: Specialists hope to snuff out a troublesome trend

One out of every two adults in Armenia smoke cigarettes.

That and other information gathered by the Ministry of Healthcare point to a future of widespread respiratory ailments throughout the republic.

One out of every two adult Armenians is a smoker.

Statistics show that smoking among women has increased by 35 percent in recent years. It is an alarming trend, but not as alarming perhaps as figures showing the same increase among children ages 12 to 17. Healthcare officials say there are smokers in Armenia under the age of 12.

These and other data will be at the core of efforts to dissuade tobacco use when Armenia participates in an international anti-smoking day tomorrow (May 31).

Harutyun Minasyan is 17 and has been a smoker for three years.

"I don't know what forced me to be interested in cigarettes," says the slim teenager, putting out another cigarette in an ashtray. "Almost everyone smokes in my company. Both my parents and my friends smoke. Maybe it somehow had an influence on my choice."

Behaviour experts agree that peer pressure is a key factor in forming habits. And here, where advertisements have only recently faced regulations, the urge to smoke is encouraged.

"Advertisements and opinion persuaded our society that a man must smoke for proving his manhood and a woman must do the same for looking enigmatic," says psychologist Sona Markosyan. "Of course, all of that has an influence especially on young people. We all see that."

In August of last year new legislation placed prohibitions on advertising cigarettes on television and radio. It also banned such advertising on covers of magazines or newspapers.

Tobacco companies filled the advertising gap with billboards.

Alexander Bazarjyan coordinates the Ministry of Healthcare's project to curb smoking and says that advertisers are finding ways around the law.

"Sometimes it happens when an advertisement of cigarettes is shown on TV in a hidden way," he says, adding that it is up to the Television and Radio Commission and law enforcement to impose penalties.

Despite the statistics, specialists say some results are being achieved from recent anti-smoking campaigns. Some smokers are quitting and children are being educated against taking up the habit.

"Of course, there is no anti-smoking project that can be realized in one year," says Bazarjyan. "However works are conducted and changes will become noticeable in due course."

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Click to enlarge.


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