TOPICS:Smoking ban can be effective

The consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke are the world’s leading preventable cause of death. Smokers of all ages have death rates 2-3 times higher than that of nonsmokers.

Smoking bans are public policies that prohibit tobacco smoking in workplaces and other public spaces. The primary rationale of the smoke-free laws is to protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. A study issued in 2002 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that non-smokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. Sidestream smoke contains 69 known carcinogens.

Smoke-free laws leads to a reduction in demand for tobacco by creating an environment where smoking becomes increasingly more difficult and to help shift social norms away from the acceptance of smoking in everyday life. Along with tax measures, cessation measures, and education, smoking ban policy is currently viewed as an important element in lowering smoking rates and promoting public health.

Laws implementing bans on smoking have been introduced by many countries in various forms over the years. Results of studies, though not aplenty, show that the bans can be very effective in bringing about positive changes in the health of the population. For instance, in the first 18 months after Pueblo, Colorado enacted a smoking ban in 2003, hospital admissions for heart attacks dropped by 27%. Admissions in neighboring towns without smoking bans showed no change.

As for Nepal, as many as 15,000 people are estimated to die every year due to tobacco consumption, according to a recent Nepal Cancer Relief Society report. In order to curb the addiction, Nepal had adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003 along with 167 other countries. However, for various reasons it has not been implemented yet. It is remarkable that the present government is determined to ban smoking in public places. As the aforementioned evidence indicates, the ban, if appropriately enforced and strictly followed, should be equally effective in Nepal as well.

Dr. Vaidya is Lecturer at the Dept. of Community Medicine, KMC