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The Union welcomes the announcement that tobacco vendor licensing has been made mandatory in the state of Uttarakhand, India, to regulate the trade of tobacco products in the state.

The Union and its partner, Balajee Seva Sansthan (BSS), worked closely with the government to develop this state level order issued by the Department of Urban Development under the Uttarakhand Municipal Corporation Act 1959.

The order will prohibit the marketing, manufacturing, storage, packaging and processing of any tobacco products in the state without a license. Licensed vendors will also be required to comply with the provisions set out in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003 and the and Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. Under these provisions, the sale of any product that is primarily targeted to children, such as biscuits and sweets, will also be prohibited in shops licensed to sell tobacco products. This is to reduce children’s exposure to tobacco.

“This order will help protect more than 10 million people of the state from the harms of tobacco and crucially will restrict opportunities for children to see and buy tobacco products,” said Dr Rana J Singh, Deputy Regional Director for South East Asia at The Union. “We hope that other states will follow the strong example set by states like Uttarakhand in protecting people, and especially children, from tobacco.”

The Union will work with local partners to support the Uttarakhand State Government and city administrations to effectively implement this order by developing implementation guidelines and building capacity of law enforcers in the state.

The Union has supported many other states to limit the accessibility and availability of tobacco products, including Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Currently, The Union’s Global Implementation Program, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is supporting cities in West Bengal and Jharkhand to improve compliance with COTPA through the implementation and enforcement of vendor licensing.

 

At a special World Health Organization (WHO) session titled Novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products held at the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health, a panel of experts discussed the threat posed by e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products on global public health.

In the session, Dr Gan Quan, Director of the Tobacco Control Department at The Union, presented on the particular challenges of regulating e-cigarettes in low- and middle-income countries. Of increasing concern is the uptake by youth, which is rising dramatically, and the substantial evidence that vaping leads young people to go on to smoke conventional cigarettes (National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, 2018).

Most of the available evidence on the extent to which e-cigarettes lead to smoking conventional cigarettes comes from the United States. In many low- and middle-income countries smoking rates are higher, cigarettes are more easily available, and smoking is still an accepted social behaviour – causing the public health community to fear an even worse risk of young people who vape to go on to smoking in these countries.

Dr Gan Quan’s presentation also examined the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a cessation tool, emphasising the need for stronger implementation of the evidence-based MPOWER policies recommended by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – such as increased tobacco taxation and advertisement bans – as the best way to reduce smoking.

“If developing countries can implement MPOWER effectively, we will see millions of smokers quit on their own” said Dr Gan Quan, pointing to the falling smoking rates in the US over the past 60 years. “MPOWER is the solution.”

The panel recommended that countries adopt a precautionary approach with e-cigarettes, and commended the example shown by India in banning e-cigarettes outright.

Dr Doug Bettcher, Senior Adviser, Director-General’s Office at WHO, and co-chair of the session, described the tobacco industry as having misleadingly co-opted the term “harm-reduction”, a valid public health approach in other contexts, to market new tobacco products for profit.

The global public health community has responded with derision to the tobacco industry’s strategy to market itself as part of the solution to the tobacco epidemic, viewing this as a cynical attempt to involve itself in conversations with decision-makers and interfere in policy-making. In response, Bloomberg Philanthropies has set-up the global tobacco industry watchdog STOP, of which The Union is a partner, to support stakeholders with evidence and tools to counter the industry.

Dr Bettcher encouraged attendees at the session to sign The Union’s Tobacco Control Pledge and commit to taking a stand against the tobacco industry. Delegates can sign the Tobacco Control Pledge at The Union booth in the Spoorthi Vedika: Community Connect space – or sign online – to become a tobacco control advocate and help end the tobacco epidemic.

 

The Union welcomes the approval of a Bill by Brazil’s Federal Senate on Tuesday 12 November extending measures to fight the tobacco epidemic in the country. The Bill will now go before the Chair of Deputies for final approval, which is expected in 2020. Once approved, the Bill will take effect in 90 days.

The Bill includes major tobacco control advances including a ban of tobacco product displays at point of sale, a ban on importing and marketing of flavoured tobacco products, strengthened graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, and a ban on smoking in cars with children present, with tough fines for drivers who are caught breaking this law.

The Bill was approved by the Federal Senate despite opposition by tobacco industry allies and front groups such as ABRASEL (Associação Brasileira de Bares e Restaurantes).

“Tobacco causes eight million deaths per year worldwide, and more than 400 deaths per day in Brazil,” said Dr Gustavo Sóñora, Regional Director of The Union Latin America. “The Union celebrates this achievement as a major step forwards in the fight against tobacco use, and an example for other countries to follow.

“We also urge Brazil – as one of the world leaders in implementing evidence-based tobacco control policies – to continue its leadership by reconsidering the introduction of plain packaging, which was originally proposed but left out of the final Bill.”

The Union has been supporting Brazil's tobacco control efforts for more than a decade. Our joint work with the National Cancer Institute (INCA) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) contributed to a sweeping 2011 tobacco tax policy reform, the creation of the first government-run online observatory to monitor tobacco industry interference, and online training of 700 health inspectors to implement and enforce tobacco control legislation across the country.

The Union will continue to work closely with our partners to support Brazil in implementing this Bill, and to encourage the adoption of other evidence-based tobacco control policies such as plain packaging, to further reduce tobacco use and the unnecessary death and suffering it causes.

 

The Union congratulates Mexico for the decision to increase tobacco excise tax in line with the national inflation rate. This measure was approved by the Mexican Parliament in October and was included in the Economic Package proposal for the year 2020. Tobacco tax will be reviewed each year and adjusted according to the inflation rate.

Increasing tobacco tax to ensure that tobacco products become increasingly unaffordable is one of the most effective policies for reducing tobacco use set out in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

The Union collaborated with Union grantee, the National Council Against Addictions (CONADIC), to provide technical assistance to the government of Mexico and support the decision to update tobacco excise tax each year based on the inflation rate.

“The Union welcomes this decision as a positive sign that the Mexican government is committed to strengthening tobacco control in the country,” said Dr Gustavo Sóñora, Regional Director of The Union Latin America.

“However, tax on tobacco products in Mexico is still too low. The Union urges Mexico to consider further increasing tobacco tax, one of the most effective policies of the WHO FCTC, to encourage smokers to quit and to make smoking unaffordable for young people.”

The Union has provided technical assistance to further tobacco control policies in Mexico since 2006, and helped establish the first ever smokefree beach in the country; beach San Martin in Cozumel. The Union has supported partners to strengthen the enforcement and evaluation of tobacco policy, and to present scientific evidence for tobacco control subnationally in each of Mexico’s 32 provinces.

Tobacco control efforts in Mexico have shown positive results, with the national smoking rate declining from 28 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2017. However, with over 16 million Mexican people still using tobacco in 2017, The Union will continue to provide support to partners and the government of Mexico to further implement the policies set out in the WHO FCTC, to reduce the preventable diseases and early death caused by tobacco.

 

The Union welcomes the news that China is planning to regulate e-cigarettes to prevent young people and non-smokers from taking up vaping.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday 22 July, Mao Qunan, head of the National Health Commission's (NHC) planning department, said that the NHC "is working with relevant departments to conduct research on electronic cigarette supervision and we plan to regulate electronic cigarettes through legislation."

There is an urgent need for the regulation of e-cigarettes globally because research has shown that vaping is increasing dramatically among young people. The 2018 United States (US) National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the Centres for Disease Control showed that the number of US high school students who reported current e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018, and the study authors suggested that this could be due to the recent popularity of certain types of e-cigarettes, such as JUUL.

“Recent evidence has shown that the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents is likely to lead them to go on to smoking tobacco products,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “The regulation of e-cigarettes in China is urgently needed to ensure that young people are protected.”

“We would recommend that e-cigarettes be regulated in China as pharmaceutical products, which would require manufacturers to provide evidence that the sale of the product will bring public health benefits. It is also important that the use of e-cigarettes is banned in public places; that all e-cigarette advertisements are banned; and that health warnings are printed on packages.”

The Union has made further recommendations on the regulation of e-cigarettes to protect public health in a summary position statement on e-cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems.

Over the past decade, substantial progress has been made in China, which has the highest rate of tobacco use in the world, in protecting non-smokers from exposure to second-hand smoke. A relaxed regulation on e-cigarettes, or a lack of regulation altogether, could potentially roll back the progress made in social norm change on smoking, and endanger the effectiveness and efficiency of smoke-free law enforcement.

The unique situation of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) being part of the government in China warrants the need for the STMA to be distanced from tobacco control policy making, as it poses a conflict of interest and a violation of Article 5.3 (on tobacco industry interference) of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This principle should also be applied to the development of e-cigarette regulation.

Dr Gan Quan said: “It is crucial that the regulatory authority over e-cigarettes reside with the China Food and Drug Administration, and that STMA is not involved in the regulation of e-cigarettes or any discussions about it.”

 

The STOP global tobacco industry watchdog, of which The Union is a partner, has launched a new database revealing close to 100 groups which are aiding the tobacco industry in its efforts to undermine public health policies worldwide.

The tobacco industry has a long history of interfering in polices proven to reduce tobacco use and save lives, such as smoke-free laws, tobacco tax increases and graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, as set out in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

One of the tactics that tobacco companies use to derail these policies is by channeling funding, expertise and messaging to other organisations that can carry out their agenda with perceived legitimacy. Some of these organisations are easy to identify, such as tobacco trade associations or public-relations firms working for tobacco companies. Some, however, attempt to disguise themselves by claiming independence, such as the Philip Morris-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

“The tobacco industry is the single greatest barrier to reducing disease related to tobacco use,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union and partner in STOP. “STOP is wholly dedicated to providing information and tools that make it easier to sort the truth from the lies.”

The Tobacco Industry Allies database, which is now accessible on the new STOP website, contains details of 92 organisations in 27 countries that promote the industry’s agenda while appearing to be independent. The largest concentration of tobacco industry allies in this initial research was in the United States and the United Kingdom, but groups were identified across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, highlighting the global effort to interfere with tobacco control policies.

Dozens more groups are still under investigation by STOP, and it is estimated that there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of other organisations working to advance tobacco industry interests.

Contact STOP if you have information relating to a possible tobacco industry ally.

Visit STOP’s new website at exposetobacco.org to access tools and resources including the latest analyses, reports, and information on the industry’s tactics.

A note on information sources

STOP researchers used academic sources and journals, government reports, financial filings, news articles, legal documents and organisations’ own material to compile the Tobacco Industry Allies database. To help assess financial transparency, STOP used the Transparify rating. All organisations listed are rooted in evidence available on Tobacco Tactics.

About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)

STOP is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose the tobacco industry strategies and tactics that undermine public health. STOP is a partnership between The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control, The Union and  Vital Strategies. Learn more at exposetobacco.org.

 

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