The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called upon Governments to enact and enforce comprehensive smoke-free laws to protect people from the harms of second-hand tobacco smoke. Smoke-free laws are relatively easy to pass and enforce. Besides improving health, they are also business friendly, says the new WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2015.
The Report, which coincides with the 10th anniversary of coming into force of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), also calls for decisive action by countries to end tobacco use – an epidemic that is a significant hurdle to development gains worldwide.
Smoke-free laws and environments find favour with both smokers and non-smokers as it improves the health of both these groups, besides encouraging smokers to reduce tobacco use and quit successfully in the long-term.
Scientific evidence has long proven that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke – the smoke emanating from a smoker. Its exposure leads to serious and often fatal diseases, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease as well as lung and other cancers. Children, foetuses, and newborns may also suffer severe, long-term harm – or even die due to second-hand smoke exposure.
Over 1.3 billion people across the world were covered by strong and comprehensive smoke-free legislation in 2014 – an increase of about 200 million since 2012, the Report says pointing out to the popularity of these laws. A total of 49 countries have implemented smoke-free laws covering all public places and workplaces.
Globally, educational facilities are the best-protected public place with two thirds of countries legislating such a ban, followed closely by health facilities. Employees and patrons of restaurants, pubs and bars have the lowest level of protection from second-hand smoke, according to the Report, the fifth in the series of WHO reports on the global tobacco epidemic.
“Political will, coupled with effective enforcement, can sharply reduce smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke in all venues where smoking is outlawed”, the Report notes giving highlighted mention to Russia – a trendsetting country by becoming 100 per cent smoke-free.
In less than three years, the country not just passed and implemented its 2013 legislation but also demonstrated that smoke-free laws do not hit businesses. Compliance monitoring six months after the law was extended to cover restaurants, cafes, and bars revealed an overall increase in business in these establishments year-on-year. The setting up of required ‘no smoking’ signages in all public places played a significant part in achieving the smoke-free status.
The WHO has described Indian tobacco control law COTPA, 2003 as a comprehensive legislation consistent with the FCTC for protecting the public, especially the youth, from tobacco harms.
It hails India’s National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) as the cornerstone for advancing tobacco control in a large and complex tobacco producing country and an excellent model for replication. The NTCP, piloted in 2007 to enforce COTPA and to build awareness on tobacco harms, is now being expanded to cover all 36 states and 672 districts in phases between 2012 and 2017.