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Tobacco industry hampering efforts to implement control measures: WHO report

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-07-2017 Neetu Chandra Sharma

New Delhi: Even though tobacco control measures such as graphic pack warnings, advertising bans or no smoking areas apply to around 63% of the world’s population, the tobacco industry is hampering government efforts to fully implement these measures, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report on global tobacco epidemic, 2017 has said.

The implementation of comprehensive tobacco control measures has quadrupled since 2007 when only 1 billion people and 15% of the world’s population were covered.

Strategies to implement such policies have saved millions of people from early death. However, the tobacco industry continues to hamper governments’ efforts to fully implement life- and cost-saving interventions, the report said.

The report also noted that bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship interfere with the tobacco industry’s ability to promote and sell its products, and reduce tobacco use. But only 15% of the world’s population is currently covered by a comprehensive ban.

“Tobacco industry interference in government policy-making represents a deadly barrier to advancing health and development in many countries. But by monitoring and blocking such activities, we can save lives and sow the seeds for a sustainable future for all,” said Dr Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

The report noted that even countries with limited resources can monitor tobacco use and implement prevention policies.

Nepal, India and the Philippines are among countries that have conducted WHO-backed initiatives to monitor tobacco use and have then implemented measures to protect people from tobacco.

Nepal introduced the world’s largest health warnings on tobacco packaging surfaces (covering 90% of the package) in May 2015 after using a set of household tobacco survey questions that allowed authorities to detect a high prevalence of adult male smokers and users of smokeless products.

India also launched a nationwide tobacco cessation programme and toll-free quit line in 2016 after conducting a “global adult tobacco survey” in 2009-10 that revealed high interest among almost 1 in 2 smokers and users of smokeless products to quit eventually.

The WHO report was launched on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

Tobacco use is a leading common risk factor for non-communicable diseases, which kill 40 million people each year, equivalent to 70% of all deaths globally, including 15 million people aged between 30 and 69 years. Over 80% of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

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