Hungary: people born in the 2020s won’t have legal rights any more to buy tobacco

Smoking Hungarians

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the The European Sting by Ms. Zsanett Dren, a 5th year medical student from University of Debrecen, Hungary. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


First of all, I have to say that Hungary, as a central-eastern European country, is following the western „trends” and habits and isn’t the leader or initiative area of Europe.

In 2014, Hungary stood on the first place among the countries with the highest number of people who died in lung cancer. It meant approximately 22 000 people per year. It is a huge number, in spite of the European laws, which have been executed since 2009. The European Union’s aim is to be the global leader of reducing the use of tobacco.

Beside Ireland, the UK, Bulgaria, Malta, Spain, and Greece, Hungary has the strictest provision with a complete ban on smoking in workplaces, enclosed public spaces and on public transports.  To take a closer look: it is not allowed to smoke in public education institutions, like nursery, kindergarten, primary schools, high schools, universities; it is prohibited to smoke on playgrounds, at bus stops, in the underground; it is allowed to smoke only 5 meters far from the border of these areas. It is allowed to smoke in smoking areas at workplaces, if it is  an open airspace. In healthcare institutions you can  smoke 10 meters far from the entrance, of course, outside.

Moreover, our government have taken different steps for prevention, for example with information campaigns,  advertising restrictions of tobacco products, etc. The most important goal beside this is to protect non-smokers, especially children from the effects of smoking and passive smoking.

In medical school we study  that it is our responsibility as well to ask our patients about their smoking habits. It is called minimal intervention. The next step is to ask them whether they think about  quitting smoking earlier and we have to give information, advice for them.

However, the biggest modification in my country was to establish national tobacco shops. It was a new change in legislation in 2012, that selling tobacco products is legal and possible only in these shops. This law came into force in 2013 July.

National tobacco shops are not  ordinary shops, there are  many regulations and the aim of these regulations  are to reduce using tobacco  and prevent  tobacco to be available for teenagers. For instance, on the sign board  there is an 18 sign, so people who are under 18 must not enter  the tobacco shop. Over and above, the windows and doors of the shops have to be darkened, so that we cannot see what they sell, we cannot see tobacco products, so it doesn’t come to our mind. Tobacco shops must have a separated entrance, it cannot be a part of a supermarket or anything else. At the same time  the prices of tobacco products  started getting higher including higher taxes.

In my opinion, Hungary needed these restrictions to have a healthier society in the future but a lot of citizens opposed against the new rules. Probably it cost a lot to create this new system but I believe that it is worth.  Now in 2018 a Hungarian politician, Janos Lazar, announced  a new plan that children who will born after 2020 will not be able to get tobacco product legally. If this idea comes true, I think  in the future Hungary can be the first smoking-free country in Europe.

About the author

Zsanett Dren is a 5th year medical student from University of Debrecen, Hungary. She is a member of Debrecen’s Medical Students Association, which is connected to IFMSA. As a future medical doctor, she feels responsible for taking part in prevention and not only in cure. She believes that healthy lifestyle, education and prevention are more profitable for the patients and the doctors, too. She field of interest is pediatrics, especially neonatology. In her free time, she really likes to travel, do sports, and turn off her mind with reading novels.

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