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HEALTH

EU rules dampen Danish government plan to ban future cigarette sales

A government proposal to curtail future cigarette sales by permanently banning anyone born after 2010 from buying them looks unlikely to be passed into law due to EU rules.

a cigarette
A Danish government plan to implement a future ban on purchasing cigarettes for persons born after 2010 faces an obstacle in the form of an EU directive. Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash

The government last month unveiled plans to ensure that future generations are tobacco-free by banning the sale of cigarettes and other nicotine products to anyone born after 2010.

People under 18 are not legally allowed to purchase cigarettes under current Danish laws, so although the ban would not have an effect for six years, it would prevent people born after 2010 from ever buying cigarettes.

But the Danish plan now looks unlikely in its current form because EU member states may not forbid the sale of tobacco, according to a response given to a parliamentary question by the health minister, Magnus Heunicke.

“It is based on this that the Ministry of Health concludes that a ban on sales of nicotine or tobacco products to persons born after 2010 or later would require a change to the (EU) tobacco directive,” Heunicke said.

The minister said in comments to news wire Ritzau that he had been aware of “legal obstacles” to the proposal at the time it was presented by the government.

“Of course we need a majority in parliament, but there’s also the tobacco directive,” he said.

“As the rules are now, we could introduce it and roll it out until 2035. But after that the tobacco directive would have to be changed for us to continue the rules,” he said.

At the time of its presentation, the government proposal was met with criticism because it could result in a future situation in which, for example, a 29-year-old would be banned from buying cigarettes while a 30-year-old could buy them, due to each individual’s year of birth.

Heunicke said he did not see that situation as a strong argument against the proposal.

“We have different age limits under current rules, some are 15 and 16 years and others are 17 and 18 years. We’d be able to manage it. The aim is that the 29-year-old would not want to buy cigarettes because the person in question has not become addicted,” he said.

The minister said the government had not given up hope of implementing the rule in future despite the limitations currently presented by EU rules.

“We fully recognise that there are both domestic politics and EU politics that must be change, but that’s why we’re in politics. It’s to change some rules,” he said.

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FAMILY

Denmark presents plan to hire 100 new staff at maternity wards

100 new staff at maternity wards nationally will contribute to improved conditions for new mothers across Denmark, according to a political plan.

Denmark presents plan to hire 100 new staff at maternity wards

The plan was presented by the government and allied parties on the left on Monday. The Alternative and Christian Democratic parties are also in support of the deal. It thereby has an overall parliamentary majority behind it.

The political deal sets aside 80 million kroner over a three-year period to be spent on recruiting and retaining midwives. It will be designed to stop the loss of staff in the sector seen in the Greater Copenhagen region in particular.

It will also give first-time mothers the option of staying in hospitals for up to two days after giving birth, should they choose to do so.

Mothers who choose not to stay at hospitals will have the right to a home visit post-birth.

Currently, mothers in some areas are discharged from hospital shortly after giving birth – within hours in some cases.

The new right for first-time mothers to stay in hospital for two days will come into effect this year, with the parties behind the deal to meet in 2024 with a view to extending it to all births.

The deal aims to improve working conditions for midwives and other maternity ward staff as part of the drive to recruit and retain them. Its practical details will be agreed with Danske Regioner, the representative board for the regional health authorities.

Funding for the investment in neonatal care in Denmark was put aside in the 2022 budget, with the agreement between parties on its spending now finalised.

A total of 475 million kroner will be spent on the area up to 2025.

“Everyone has the right to good care when giving birth and it has long been clear that conditions in the maternity sector must be improved,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said in a ministry statement.

Lis Munk, chairwoman of the Danish Midwives’ Association (Jordemoderforeningen), welcomed the agreement and noted “a recognition that there is not (currently) the number of staff that we need”, but also said that as many as 200 new midwives may be needed. 

“Nowadays, women in labour may well find that there is neither a room nor a midwife for you when you need one,” Munk told news wire Ritzau.

“And then you end up being alone for a large part of the birth,” she said.

Denmark saw considerable debate in 2021 relating to the standard of maternity care in the country, with several cases of mothers and staff describing what they considered below-par conditions. These include reports by broadcaster DR and magazine Femina of Caesarian sections that were necessary because problems during births were not detected early enough, because of a lack of adequate staffing.

Other criticism related to new mothers being discharged from hospitals within hours of giving birth and before they felt ready to leave.

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