January 31st marks No Tobacco Day. Launched in 1982 as a way to alert the public to the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, this day is now celebrated across the region. This year, activists from the “Klima Bez Dima” (“Environment Without Smoke”) initiative decided to organize an action in Mostar to commemorate the occasion.
A creative and interactive video presentation titled “A Life in Smoke – Save Me!” was presented at Mostar’s Mepas Mall. As part of the presentation, the people of Mostar could press a button that stood in front of a smoke-filled screen to grant clean air to the person behind the smoke and symbolically save a life.
Organizers of the Klima Bez Dima event, together with young people from the Mostar Gymnasium and the Dance Club “Stars”, and with the support of the Public Health Institute of the Federation of BiH, celebrated life and pointed out the necessity of protecting citizens from exposure to second-hand smoke.
This event was part of a series of actions organized in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar that aimed to collect 10,000 signatures of support as well as to send a message to decision makers in the legislative bodies of both the Republika Srpska (RS) and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) entities to work on adopting and implementing legal solutions that will better regulate issues related to tobacco control.
Dr. Davor Pehar, Director of the Public Health Institute of FBiH, states that smoking is the most widespread addiction in the Federation. He says that more than 11,000 deaths per year can be linked to diseases that are directly related to smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
“We hope to encourage the adoption of a tobacco control law that can support an environment where smoking in all public spaces is prohibited, which would reduce the harmful impact of second-hand smoke on our health,” Pehar adds.
Mostar high school teacher, Valentina Planinić, states that since a law has not been devised to forbid indoor smoking, there is a smokers’ room in her school where teachers can smoke.
“It is very hard to educate children about the dangers of smoking if their educators smoke and they see them doing it every day. The adoption of such a law would make educational activities easier. It would be easier to tell students that smoking isn’t healthy; that it is very harmful and that they don’t have the right to endanger others’ health. A smoker not only jeopardizes themselves but also those around them,” she explains.
Nela Azinović, a student from Mostar, says she is exposed to tobacco smoke on a daily basis as most of her friends and family members are smokers.
“I often advise people to stop smoking, but that rarely works. As a former student of medicine, I am more familiar with this problem and with the harmful effects of it, and I am very concerned for the people around me as well as for myself,” Nela adds, emphasizing that she will be supporting the Klima Bez Dima initiative because she believes it can bring about positive and significant changes for future generations.
Matea Perić, a high school teacher, is also exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco smoke on a daily basis.
“When I think about it, I realize that the problem is a major health threat for the population in general. Everyone is so accustomed to being exposed to smoke that it simply ceases to be a cause for concern. I, therefore, support this initiative and consider the prohibition of smoking in public places necessary. This would likely reduce the number of smokers because they would have limited opportunities to smoke and there would be far fewer places where cigarettes would be allowed,” she says.
Luka Miloš from Mostar is in a similar situation. Although he is a non-smoker, he is still constantly exposed to tobacco smoke.
“I’m terribly bothered by this because, first and foremost, it’s not a pleasant smell and, secondly, because I often have difficulties breathing due to my health problems.”
The Klima Bez Dima campaign is a continuation of efforts designed to raise citizens’ awareness of the harmful effects of smoking and the consequences of exposure to second-hand smoke. Everyone, including children, pregnant women, and elderly people, is constantly exposed to second-hand smoke in all public spaces across BiH.
The percentage of tobacco-related mortality in BiH is among the highest in the world. According to the World Bank in BiH, more than 9,000 people in BiH die each year from smoking-related illnesses. The campaign’s initiators point out that a complete ban on smoking in indoor public spaces is the only way to protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke.
Student Marija Sučić explains that, as a non-smoker, she is affected by her exposure to smokers everywhere she goes; from her own home to public areas such as parks and promenades to catering facilities.
“Tobacco smoke is harmful, especially for young people and children. I, thus, believe that smokers should respect other people’s right to breathe clean air and should not trap them in a room where the smoke is so thick it resembles fog,” she says.
Marija also thinks that institutions have a responsibility to educate youth about the negative aspects of a smoker’s life.
Student Stjepan Nižić sees smoking as a significant problem and says that he doesn’t feel relaxed when in the company of smokers.
“I think this situation presents a problem for the health of the environment and for the health of the smokers themselves. The number of young people who smoke is steadily increasing, despite the fact that we often see how harmful cigarettes are and how negatively they can affect our health, and this worries me,” he explains.
Student Ante Bagarić also views smoking as a threat to health and the environment. He fully supports any initiative to implement better laws in this area.
“I’ve been to countries where smoking in public places is prohibited and I would personally like such laws implemented in BiH because they would improve the quality of health here. I absolutely support the Klima Bez Dima initiative and I will definitely sign the pledge to support their actions. We really need these kinds of initiatives to bring about lasting changes that will benefit our society in the long-term,” he concludes.
Klima Bez Dima is part of the “Reducing Health Risk Factors in BiH” project supported by the Government of Switzerland and implemented by the World Bank in BiH in partnership with entity Ministries of Health, entity Public Health Institutes, and other local stakeholders. To learn more about the Klima Bez Dima initiative and to sign the pledge to protect BiH citizens from exposure to second-hand smoke, visit www.klimabezdima.com.