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Hungarians slow to kick habit

Five years after the new bill regulating tobacco shops came into effect, the number of smokers in Hungary has decreased, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán claimed at a meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday. The figures, however, show a different picture, according to online news portal hvg.hu.

According to official WHO figures from 2014 cited by Orbán, the proportion of regular smokers in Hungary decreased from 28% to 19% between 2012 and 2013. The prime minister did not refer to developments since 2013, however.

Hvg.hu notes that the statistics do not include estimates regarding purchases made on the black market, and refer only to cigarettes, and do not include packaged loose tobacco.

Citing figures published by domestic tobacco distributor Nemzeti Dohánykereskedelmi Zrt., between 2014 and 2015 the number of cigarettes sold decreased by 100 million. However, the increase in sales of packaged tobacco was significant in the same period, up by 410,000 kilograms. According to calculations made by hvg.hu, this corresponds to around 700 mln cigarettes, making a total increase in this period of around 600 mln cigarettes.

Quoting other data compiled from different sources, hvg.hu draws the conclusion that although there has been a decrease in cigarette sales in Hungary, sales of packaged tobacco products and accessories are growing.

Research published last year by the National Institute for Health Development (NEFI) seems to confirm this.

"Following measures taken in the last years, significant steps have been taken to reduce smoking in Hungary, but based on the statistical data other measures are also needed," the study concluded.