The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called upon the governments to prioritise tobacco control, seek alternative methods to finance tobacco control and commit necessary human and financial resources to tackle the tobacco epidemic in their countries.
In a statement issued on the eve of ‘World No Tobacco Day’, Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said this was the only way that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) could live up to its promise of protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco.
The Framework Convention embraces all elements of tobacco control. It entered into force and became an international law on February 28, 2005. It is one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations in terms of the number of signatories, with 172 Member States of the World Health Organisation being Parties to the Convention till date.
Globally nearly six million people die each year from tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke. The annual global death toll from the epidemic of tobacco use could rise to eight million by 2030. It is estimated that up to one billion people could die from tobacco use the world over during the 21st century. In the WHO South-East Asia Region over 240 million adults smoke tobacco and nearly the same number of adults use smokeless forms of tobacco in different forms.
The World Health Organisation is focusing global attention on implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The Framework Convention is the world’s first ever global public health treaty developed and adopted under the auspices of the World Health Organisation and reflects the power of prevention.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control includes provisions for reducing demand as well as supply of tobacco products. It also recognises the importance of international cooperation and helping low- and middle-income countries to meet their treaty obligations. It has catalysed actions across the globe, and elevated the importance of tobacco control as a global health and political issue. It has also stimulated policy changes at the national level and injected new public and private resources into the field.
Nine countries, including India, have formulated comprehensive national laws to implement the provisions of the Framework Convention. These laws include banning smoking in public places, prohibiting tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotions, and making tobacco-related health warnings mandatory on the packs of tobacco products.
The Framework Convention recommends 30–50 per cent coverage for health warnings on tobacco product packages. Some Member countries have demonstrated innovative ways of health financing using tobacco taxation. India has levied a 10 per cent cess on tobacco for the National Rural Health Mission and Thailand is using 2 per cent of its tobacco and alcohol tax for health promotion.