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31 May - World No Tobacco Day

 

This year, the WHO is focusing World No Tobacco Day on its own "WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control", of which FIP was instrumental in initiating and supporting to this day.

Some key statistics that WHO wants everyone to remember this WNTD:

  • there is one death every six seconds related to tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke
  • 63% of all deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) for which tobacco use is the greatest risk factor after high blood pressure. This will be of prime focus at the upcoming summit on NCDs in New York City in September 2011
  • there are 173 parties in the WHO Framework on Tobacco Control - it saves lives!

Although many anti-tobacco campaigns - including the WHO World No Tobacco Day - have been in place for many years in many countries, healthcare providers, governments and the public in general continue to become increasingly aware of the health risks associated with smoking. These health risks prove significant for not only smokers themselves, but also for individuals subject to tobacco smoke in the environment. This awareness has translated itself into recent adoption of strict new legislation on smoking all around the world, or the tightening of existing restrictions.

For instance, the Hungarian Parliament passed legislation that will make public places, restaurants, bars and other workplaces in the country smoke free starting in January 2012.

In March 2011, the Belgium's Constitutional Court ruled that the discrimination between bars serving food and those not serving food (and casinos) distorted competition and that, as a consequence, the exemption for the latter has to end by July 2011, thus making Belgium's bars, restaurants and casinos smoke free without exemptions.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation into law that bans smoking in many public spaces around the five boroughs. Under the new law, smoking will be banned in the 1,700 city parks and 14 miles of public beaches. City pools and recreation centers will also be smoke free. The Bill also bans smoking in city pedestrian plazas, like in Times Square.

Spanish lawmakers have voted to approve a new anti-smoking law. Since January 2011 bars and restaurants will be no-smoking zones. Smokers will also not be allowed to light up a cigarette on television broadcasts, near hospitals or in school playgrounds.

Australia is currently preparing the toughest legislation in the world. They would completely ban logos and branding on packets of cigarettes. The packets would also be plain olive green, which is the color that smokers apparently find least attractive.

Logos and any form of branding would be completely banned. Instead, the brand names would appear in a standard size and font, to make them as bland and anonymous as possible.  A greater area of the packaging would also be taken up with grotesque pictures of cancerous tumors and the health effects of tobacco. This all would be done to remove any remaining glamour from cigarettes.

However, even tougher measure can be seen in places such as  Bhutan. The country says it is determined to become the world's first smoking-free nation. Selling cigarettes has been forbidden since 2004. Persons who are caught doing so are treated like a delinquent and can be imprisoned for one to three years. Smokers are allowed to legally import up to 200 cigarettes a months, but there is a 100% tax charged on such products. People found in possession of tobacco must provide a Customs receipt when challenged by police, and can face jail time for smuggling if they fail to provide their receipts. Furthermore, the country's law gives police extensive powers to enter homes and search for tobacco products.

Although Bhutan and China border to each other, the gap between smoking policies could not be wider.

China's General Mao once promised that his communistic revolution would bring the Chinese population food, accommodation and cigarettes! The result is that a third of the cigarettes in the world are lit up in China.

With some progress, there have national and regional bans on smoking since China joined the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. For instance, the ban introduced when running up to the Olympic Games in 2008 and the World Expo in 2010. But these restrictions had a minimal effect.

In 2011 a new ban came into force, which prohibits smoking in all enclosed public areas.  It is doubtful if this ban will have the desirable effect, since China's economy depends highly on the tobacco industry - the speculated reason for the failure of the previous bans. Therefore the need for education on the health risks is higher than ever, to succeed this law.

FIP and our Member Organisations are committed to supporting WHO in its initiatives to fight tobacco use and in generating anti-tobacco activities on a global level (read the FIP Statement of Policy on the Role of the Pharmacist in Promoting a Future Free of Tobacco here).  The Danish Pharmaceutical Society is a prime example of pharmacists adopting innovative techniques to aid patients in tobacco cessation:

  • Read about the first project by clicking here
  • Read about the second project by clicking here

Together, our work will push forward the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and contribute to a global, tobacco-free society.