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Overall prevalence of tobacco use significantly decreased in Ukraine

16 November 2018

Ukraine has made a significant progress in reducing tobacco use by implementing effective programs and developing coordinated work of the public and the authorities. Attitudes of most Ukrainians towards tobacco use changed significantly during the period 2010-2017. In 2017, 23.0% of all adults in Ukraine reported current tobacco use in any form, and 62.5% of current tobacco smokers stated they were interested in quitting smoking. In addition, fewer Ukrainians reported being exposed to secondhand smoke at work and in public places.

Tobacco use remains a major preventable cause of premature death and NCDs, including heart diseases, stroke, cancer, and type II diabetes. Therefore, the fight against tobacco use remains a priority in many countries around the world. Ukraine officially defined the health objectives aimed at reducing tobacco in 2006, when the country undertook the commitment to enact tobacco control legislation as a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (in accordance with the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, 2014).

Ukraine has since made significant progress in reducing tobacco use. The coordinated work and joint efforts of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, parliamentarians, international and civil society organizations resulted in the adoption of many key tobacco control initiatives, including:

  • prohibiting tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion;
  • prohibiting smoking completely in public places (cafés, bars, restaurants, health care, and educational facilities);
  • mandating graphic health warning labels on all cigarette packs;
  • implementing multiple tobacco tax increases.

The legislative control measures have been instrumental in significantly reducing the overall prevalence of daily tobacco smoking in Ukraine, and have greatly contributed to curbing access to and availability of tobacco products.

According to the GATS findings, the overall prevalence of daily tobacco smoking among adult Ukrainians has decreased by 20% over the past seven years (2010-2017).

The GYTS 2017 report demonstrated a significant decrease in the tobacco use prevalence among young persons aged 13-15 years – by 23% compared to 2011, and by 43% compared to 2005.

In addition, both studies showed that fewer Ukrainians were exposed to secondhand smoke at home, at work, and in public places.

It is worth noting that the majority of Ukrainians were well aware of the health consequences of tobacco use and smoking:

  • 92.7% of adults believed that smoking could cause serious illnesses;
  • 85.5% of respondents believed inhaling secondhand smoke causes serious illnesses; 
  • 53.7% of adults believed smoking a hookah/waterpipe with tobacco could cause serious illnesses;
  • 11.5% of respondents mistakenly believed that some types of cigarettes were less harmful than others;  
  • 83.2% favored a complete smoke-free policy for indoor workplaces and public places.

Overall, 21.0% of current tobacco smokers reported that they would quit smoking if the price of tobacco products sharply increased, and 25.8% reported that they would smoke less.

In 2017, about 8.2 million adults (40.1% of males and 8.9% of females) in Ukraine reported current tobacco use on a daily or less than daily basis, and over half of them stated they were interested in quitting.

In 2017, a national stop smoking service was launched in Ukraine. This is a professional smoking cessation service aimed at supporting Ukrainians who are suffering from tobacco addiction and want to quit smoking. The service consists of a toll-free hotline 0-800-50-55-60 and a website with readily available information on smoking cessation and a live chat, and is staffed with professional and client-oriented consultants who provide individual counseling and help people find their motivation, evaluate potential risks and develop quitting plans.

According to Otto Stoyka, tobacco control expert and chief physician of the Kyiv city health center, quitting smoking is the best decision in life any smoker can make to improve own health and wellbeing. The positive health effects of quitting smoking begin on the first day after quitting, and the risks of tobacco-related diseases start dropping. One week after quitting, the ability to smell and taste improves. Three months after quitting, the lung function noticeably improves. Five years after quitting smoking, a former smoker's risk of stroke is almost identical to that of a non-smoker. The sooner a person quits smoking, the better.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) is a nationally representative household survey of people age 15 years or older that is used to monitor tobacco use (smoking and smokeless) and to track key tobacco control indicators.

The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) is a global standard for systematically monitoring youth tobacco use and tracking key tobacco control indicators. It is a cross-sectional, nationally representative school-based survey of students in grades associated with ages 13 to 15 years.

Both surveys provide information on respondents’ background characteristics, tobacco use (smoking and smokeless), tobacco cessation, secondhand smoke exposure, economics, media, and knowledge, attitudes and perceptions towards tobacco use, and enhance countries’ capacity to design, implement and evaluate tobacco control programs, including to fulfill their obligations under the WHOFCTC.

In Ukraine, GATS was conducted in 2010 and 2017, and GYTS – in 2005, 2011 and 2017.

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