By Anush Dashtents
A standing committee of the Armenian parliament will soon propose legislation envisaging a total ban on televised advertisements of tobacco.
A bill drafted by the parliament committee on social affairs and health care would tighten the existing rules that ban television channels from airing tobacco commercials from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.. The committee chairman, Gagik Tadevosian, told RFE/RL on Wednesday that it will be included in the parliament agenda "within a month."
The draft law will make it illegal to post cigarette ads in the vicinity of schools and hospitals. It would also impose heavy penalties on shops and kiosks selling cigarettes to persons below the age of 18.
A recent monitoring by the Armenian health ministry found a widespread violation of the existing restrictions on tobacco and alcohol advertising. An aide to Health Minister Ararat Mkrtchian, Ruzanna Gevorgian, said state television and private channels routinely violate legal requirements, by broadcasting commercials showing alcohol consumption or featuring children. The practice is illegal under the Armenian law on advertising.
Gevorgian said local TV stations withdrew some of those ads after receiving warnings from the health ministry.
However, the Armenian government has no specialized agency tasked with enforcing the advertising rules. The National Commission on Television and Radio, which mainly distributes air frequencies, has some oversight functions but lacks powers to ensure compliance with the law.