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Myanmar’s Minister of Health and Sports committed to significant advances in the national tobacco control strategy during a recent meeting with The Union: increasing tobacco taxes, ensuring effective implementation of smoke-free, and regulation of smokeless tobacco products. Dr Myint Htwe also confirmed that 75 percent graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging will come into force in September this year, with a view to introducing plain packaging in the future.

In a separate high level meeting convened by The Union in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Sport (MOHS), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHBSPH) and People’s Health Foundation (PHF), members of parliament and senior officials agreed to progress tobacco control as a priority, amending the law to expedite reduction in tobacco consumption. The meeting was attended by representatives from the World Health Organization, Vital Strategies, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and officials from regional governments and the media.

In the same week, 70 officials from government, media, civil society and professional organisations from five countries -- Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Laos -- were trained on the South Asia Regional Tobacco Control Leadership Program run by The Union in collaboration with JHBSPH, MOHS and PHF.

At present almost 44 percent of adult men in Myanmar smoke, and more than 62 percent use smokeless tobacco. Amongst women, eight percent smoke and 24 percent use smokeless tobacco. Rates of tobacco-related premature death and disease are already high; if significant action is not taken soon the impact on the country’s health and economy will be severe.

Myanmar signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003 and introduced a national tobacco control law in 2006. The Union has been working with the Ministry of Health since 2012 supporting developments including tax increases, bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship and smoke-free laws, through capacity-building and technical assistance. A delegation of ministers and diplomats visited the Department of Tobacco Control’s Edinburgh headquarters in 2015 to discuss strategies for developing their tobacco control policies and to witness Scotland’s progressive work in this area of public health.

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