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Tobacco control: European integration achievements of the Ministry of Health

31 May 2023

Tobacco control is a very important public health issue and one of the key points of the Association Agreement with the EU. On World No Tobacco Day, we talk about Ukraine's achievements in fulfilling its European integration commitments and how they help to overcome the tobacco “epidemic”.

“Ukraine's key commitments in the fight against tobacco smoking under the Association Agreement with the EU are concentrated in three areas: increasing tobacco excise taxes, implementing the main provisions of Directive 2014/40/EU, and implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. We have already completed most of our homework,” said Maryna Slobodnichenko, Deputy Minister for European Integration.


Increasing excise taxes on tobacco products

In 2017, the Verkhovna Rada supported a 7-year plan to increase excise taxes on tobacco products in 2018-2024. The goal of this plan is to achieve the minimum European level of cigarette taxation, which is 90 euros per 1000 pieces.

According to experts, the price is one of the most influential tools of the state policy to reduce the prevalence of smoking, as it motivates smokers to quit more actively. In addition, raising excise taxes helps to increase budget revenues. For example, in 2008-2017, the average excise rate per pack of cigarettes in Ukraine increased more than 20 times, which resulted in an increase in state budget revenues from UAH 3.5 billion to UAH 40 billion in 2017. At the same time, the number of smokers decreased from 10 to 6.5 million.

In 2021, thanks to the implementation of this plan, the state budget received more than UAH 63.5 billion in revenues. According to KSE and Vox Ukraine analysts, the implementation of the 7-year plan will reduce the number of smokers to 5.2 million Ukrainians in 2025 and save 488,000 lives from deaths directly related to regular smoking.


New anti-tobacco legislation

Another European integration victory was the adoption of the comprehensive anti-tobacco law No. 1978 in December 2021. Its provisions are based on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and implement the provisions of Directive 2014/40/EU, which has reduced the prevalence of smoking in the European Union.

Updated provisions of Directive 2014/40/EU, which are implemented by this Law:  

  • Prohibition of flavored cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco (effective July 11, 2023);
  • More prominent warnings about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packs - their size will increase to 65% of the pack area (starting in 2024);
  • Requirement to provide the Ministry of Health with information on the ingredients contained in tobacco products (starting June 1, 2022);
  • Introduction of health warnings on e-cigarettes and e-liquids, technical requirements for mechanisms and content, and a ban on advertising (starting June 1, 2022);
  • Complete ban on advertising of tobacco products (effective July 11, 2023).


The WHO Framework Convention and the fight against tobacco smuggling

Ukraine ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2006. Its implementation has had a very positive impact on reducing smoking: according to the State Statistics Service, the prevalence of smoking among the population aged 12 and older decreased by 36% between 2008 and 2020.

The last key policy that Ukraine has to implement in line with its European integration commitments is the ratification of the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco, which is an integral part of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Protocol is primarily aimed at combating the illegal trade, which increases access to cheaper tobacco products, thereby fueling the tobacco use “epidemic” and undermining the policy to combat it.

According to Maryna Slobodnichenko, the Deputy Minister of Health, Ukraine is ready to ratify the treaty this year:

“Currently, all relevant central government agencies support the ratification of the Protocol and have no critical comments on the accession procedure. So, in the near future, the Ministry of Health, as the main stakeholder in this process, will send the relevant draft law to them for approval.”

The Protocol on the Elimination of Illicit Trade in Tobacco contains three key areas of combating smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products: supply chain control, combating offenses, and international cooperation.

In addition, the implementation of the Protocol provides for the implementation of the provisions of Directive 2014/40/EU on the control of the supply chain of tobacco products and the introduction of appropriate labeling on tobacco products.