"Restrictions and/or partial abolition seriously compromise the impact of these measures, both in reducing tobacco consumption and in health, social and economic gains. Likewise, tobacco and nicotine-free environments in indoor spaces and their extension to the outdoor spaces specified in the draft law should be comprehensive and not contain exceptions", defend the entities in a letter to the Government and parliament, released today.

For the group of entities headed by the Portuguese Society of Pneumology, which had already warned of this situation in a letter sent at the end of May to the Government and parliament, there can be no improvement in the health of the population or sustainability of the SNS “without robust measures to promote health and the prevention of chronic diseases”.

The letter is now released in the context of the parliamentary debate on the new tobacco law, with the signatories calling "on behalf of civil society organisations, public health, tobacco control and patient associations in the country", for the directive regarding the withdrawal of certain exemptions applicable to heated tobacco products is quickly transposed into national law and that the law is passed, "in accordance with public health science and evidence (proof) of tobacco control".

"Portugal pays a high price for its inertia in tobacco control, both in economic costs and in damage to the health and well-being of its citizens", say the organizations, stressing that the majority of Portuguese support tobacco control policies, according to Eurobarometers.

"Our common duty, and especially that of dignitaries of public office in Portugal, is to protect public health and the well-being of the nation's citizens, promoting strong tobacco regulation", they point out, arguing that "the restriction of tobacco sales points and vending machines shall be comprehensive and not partial and shall not be amended to allow for further exceptions".

They also argue that the marketing, promotion, sponsorship and advertising of tobacco and nicotine products (electronic devices) must “be effectively eliminated” through strong regulation. "All these measures must be approved and must not be weakened", they say.

Together with the letter, the organisations publish a summary of the available scientific information and the impact on public health of the main measures that should be approved and/or improved in the draft law, in addition to the respective arguments”.

“Around the world, it has been demonstrated that governments can only reduce smoking and the harm it causes by updating and periodically reviewing tobacco control policies, based on scientific evidence (information). In Portugal, tobacco use has increased recently”, they highlight.

The non-governmental organisation Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) also addressed a letter to the Portuguese Government in which it warns that tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, killing more than eight million people annually.

"In addition to negatively impacting the right to health and the right to life, tobacco is harmful to countless other human rights, such as the right to development, environmental rights, children's rights and women's rights", says the NGO in the letter, which the Lusa agency had access to.