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Tobacco control vital to health

Thursday 30 May 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Noumea, New Caledonia

Signs in Papua New Guinea warn of a tobacco and betel nut free area

Every year, tobacco kills nearly six million people. It remains the largest preventable cause of death on the planet.

Tobacco use contributes immensely to the nearly 80% of deaths due to non-communicable diseases in the Pacific region, including heart disease and cancer.

 

Yet, while the Pacific region leads the world in signing up to a global initiative to protect people from the harmful effects of tobacco, there is still a long way to go to ensure polices are put in place and enforced.

 

All eligible Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) have ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a key tool in the fight against tobacco.

 

However, more than half the population in Tokelau, Kiribati, Nauru and Wallis and Futuna smoke daily as do over one third of people in the Cook Islands, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

 

'It is crucial that tobacco laws are updated regularly and that PICTs ensure they are enforced at the country level,’ says SPC's Tobacco and Alcohol Adviser Ms Jeanie McKenzie.

 

Effective enforcement involves understanding what constitutes an offence under national law and communicating this information to the community, monitoring compliance and developing procedures to prepare cases of infringement for prosecution.

 

‘Common offences include selling tobacco to minors, allowing smoking in indoor areas or displaying tobacco advertising in shops,’ says Ms McKenzie.

 

SPC's Public Health Division supports PICTs in developing their tobacco control legislation and enforcement mechanisms – assistance that is directly helping Ministries of Health control tobacco in their countries.

 

‘SPC was proud to support Cook Islands with the development of its National Tobacco Action Plan recently and congratulates Cooks Islands on the progress made to date,’ says Ms McKenzie.

 

Since last year’s enforcement training in Cook Islands, health inspectors have been visiting tobacco retailers to monitor compliance and have successfully completed a Controlled Purchase Operation. This exercise tests whether or not tobacco is being sold to minors. No retailers were found to be selling tobacco to minors during the most recent exercise.

 

On this World No Tobacco Day, 31 May, SPC encourages all Pacific Islanders to quit smoking and reduce their exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

 

Photo caption: Signs in Papua New Guinea warn of a tobacco and betel nut free area.

 

For more information, please contact Ms Jeanie McKenzie, SPC’s Tobacco and Alcohol Adviser on This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it