Kathmandu, July 21
More people than ever before are covered by life-saving tobacco control policies, including in the South-East Asia Region, according to a new World Health Organisation report on global tobacco epidemic.
The report documents how 63 per cent of the world’s population is now covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure mandated by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, from graphic warnings on tobacco packages to bans on tobacco advertising, stated a press release issued by Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia yesterday. The region also includes Nepal.
“Significantly, the report highlights progress within South-East Asia region, where tobacco kills around 1.3 million people every year, noting that in 2015 Nepal introduced the world’s largest graphic health warnings on tobacco packages (90 per cent coverage on tobacco package’s surface area) and that in 2016 India launched a nationwide tobacco cessation programme and toll-free quit-line, while also increasing graphic health warnings to cover 85 per cent of tobacco packages. These achievements build on region-wide progress,” she informed.
All countries in the region now have laws and regulations that require specific warnings on tobacco packages. All countries have sought to curb tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Across the region, member countries are adopting and acting on the six MPOWER strategies to support FCTC implementation, and are even going beyond them — Alternatives to tobacco farming, for example, are being explored.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said, “Nevertheless, further progress can be made. Taxation on tobacco products, for instance, can be simplified and increased. By simplifying and increasing taxation on tobacco products, member countries can discourage the uptake and continued use of tobacco, and help recoup the cost it inflicts on all of society.”
Though countries have made progress diminishing its prominence, indirect and surrogate marketing continues. Even where legislation is comprehensive, weak enforcement means tobacco branding is often displayed at points of sale, while non-tobacco-products can be found promoting brand loyalty. According to her, all forms of direct and indirect advertising must end. “No more should effective marketing herald addiction, disease and death across the South-East Asia region,” she said.
A version of this article appears in print on July 22, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.