The World Health Organisation on Friday launched new guidance on the role tobacco product regulation can play to reduce tobacco demand, save lives and raise revenues for health services to treat tobacco-related disease, in the context of comprehensive tobacco control.
The guide, ‘Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity,’ and a collection of country approaches to regulation of menthol, presented in the publication titled ‘Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products – Menthol in tobacco products’ was launched at the 2018 World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, South Africa.
“The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), a global treaty established under the auspices of the WHO to combat the tobacco epidemic has played a critical role in tobacco control,” said Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s Director of the Department for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs).
“The launch of these important publications will further aid the implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC, contributing to building tobacco product regulation capacity in WHO member states.”
Many countries have developed advanced policies to reduce the demand for tobacco, which kills over seven million people annually, but governments can do much more to implement regulations to control tobacco use, especially by tobacco product regulation.
“Tobacco product regulation is an under-utilised tool which has a critical role to play in reducing tobacco use,” Mr. Bettcher said.
“The tobacco industry has enjoyed years of little or no regulation, mainly due to the complexity of tobacco product regulation and lack of appropriate guidance in this area. These new tools provide a useful resource to countries to either introduce or improve existing tobacco product regulation provisions and end the tobacco industry reign.”
Most countries hesitate to implement policies, due in part to the highly technical nature of such policy interventions and the difficulties in translating science into regulations, said Vinayak Prasad, who leads WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.
“Failure to regulate represents a missed opportunity as tobacco product regulation, in the context of comprehensive control, is a valuable tool that complements other tried and tested tobacco control interventions, such as raising taxes and ensuring smoke-free environments,” said Mr. Prasad.
‘Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity’ provides practical, stepwise approaches to implementing tobacco testing relevant particularly to countries with inadequate facilities to establish a testing facility.
It also provides a step-by-step guide to developing a testing laboratory, using an existing internal laboratory, contracting an external laboratory, and using the available support mechanisms both within WHO and externally.
For instance, for a laboratory already testing consumer products, internal capabilities to test tobacco products will need to be developed, an approach which will be cheaper than creating a tobacco-testing laboratory from the scratch.
Also, with the setting up of the WHO’s TobLabNet (Tobacco Laboratory Network), countries can contract experienced, independent tobacco-testing laboratories around the world that are not affiliated with the tobacco industry.
Alternatively, countries are encouraged to develop a dedicated government tobacco testing laboratory without sharing resources.
The publication ‘Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products – Menthol in tobacco products’ complements the 2016 advisory note on menthol published by the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation, which set out the available evidence on prevalence and health effects of menthol in tobacco products, as well as evidence-based conclusions and recommendations for policy-makers and regulators on menthol in its various forms.
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