Say hello to one of the strictest new smoking laws in the world

A woman smoking in the Moldovan capital Chisinau.
Gleb Garanich

CHISINAU, Moldova — Europe’s poorest country will soon have one of the world’s harshest anti-smoking laws.

Next year, Moldova will make it illegal to smoke not only in restaurants, schools, buses, trains and hospitals — but also in prisons, at playgrounds and amusement parks, in stadiums, public squares, and even in cars if a child is present.

Harsh fines will be imposed for breaking the new regulations.

“Even if 10 percent quit, it’s an achievement,” said Viorel Soltan, the director of the Health Policy Research Center (PAS), an NGO that lobbied for the law in the Moldovan parliament. “In the future, fewer adolescents will start smoking because it will be more difficult to smoke.”

The former Soviet nation’s legislators had also wanted to ban the sale of cigarettes during nighttime hours, but the measure did not pass.

Ghenadie Turcanu, a program coordinator at PAS who also lobbied for the law, said it would be great if in the future, Moldova followed Bhutan in outlawing the sale of cigarettes all together.

“Men in Moldova live 10 years less than men in Europe — and the number one preventable cause of death is tobacco,” Turcanu said.

Almost half of Moldovan men over the age of 15 smoke, according to the World Bank.

Until now, Moldovan restaurants could have smoking sections, and there were no fines imposed for smoking in hospitals or schools.

John Mallon, the spokesman for the smokers' rights group Forest Éireann, which is based in Ireland, said he can’t think of any country that prohibits smoking in parks — and very few nations that have banned smoking in cars with an underage passenger.

As for prisons, Mallon said only Australia outlawed cigarettes there, and the move caused riots.

“In the prison system, because they don’t have money, they use cigarettes for trading. That’s a problem, because [if they ban smoking], they are removing the currency from the system,” he said.

But in Moldova, smoking will be banned in all government institutions, prisons included, according to Turcanu. Smoking will only be permitted if the inmate has a private cell in order to “protect the health of nonsmokers,” he said.

Despite the good intentions of parliament, some smokers in Moldova said the new law is ridiculous.

“No one is going to enforce it,” said 21-year-old law student Cristian Corciu. “If I quit, it will be for other reasons, not because of this law.”