There’s no getting around the fact that Armenia is a nation of smokers, with more than half the male population regularly lighting up. Despite the recent passage of anti-smoking legislation, the country is struggling to enforce relevant laws and promote public awareness about the harmful effects of cigarettes and second-hand smoke.
Armenia’s high rate of poverty – with almost one-third of the country’s 2.97 million people living below the poverty line -- correlates strongly to high rates of smoking, as individuals use tobacco to cope with stress and relieve boredom. A 2009 Health Systems Performance Assessment conducted by the Armenian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and the World Bank estimated that 58 percent of Armenian males 20 years old and over smoke daily, one of the highest rates in Europe. The rate among women, though disputed, is believed to be growing as well.
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Liana Aghajanian is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.