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Smuggling of tobacco persists despite efforts: WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said the smuggling of tobacco in southeast Asia was thriving despite stringent laws enacted by countries to control tobacco consumption.

WHO’s southeast Asia director Poonam Khetrapal said: “In the southeast Asia region, many countries have porous borders that provide easy opportunity for the smuggling of tobacco products.”

“All southeast Asian countries have enacted stringent laws to control tobacco consumption – both on pricing and sale of tobacco products in-country as well as against import of foreign brands – and despite these efforts, there is still a thriving trade in smuggled tobacco products,” Khetrapal said in a statement.

Her comments came two days ahead of the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ that falls on May 31.

Noting that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was adopted by many countries in November 2012, Khetrapal urged all the member states to speed up their process of ratifying or acceding to the protocol.

She said there was a need to make a consolidated effort to put a break on these illegal transactions.

According to the WHO, tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year globally and is likely to kill over 8 million people every year by 2030 if the situation is not brought under control.

It also said more than 80 percent of these preventable deaths would occur in low and middle income countries.

“Countries are constantly defining ways to curb tobacco consumption. Tax and price policies are widely recognised as most effective for reducing demand for and consumption of tobacco products. These measures together with strong pictorial warnings have brought substantial health care gains,” she said.

However, illicit trade undermines tobacco control efforts and facilitates increased intake of tobacco by youth and adults from low income groups by making tobacco products more affordable and accessible.

“Until products are not subject to legal restrictions and effective health regulations aimed at curbing tobacco use, such as pictorial warnings or banning sales to minors, this is fuelling the tobacco epidemic,” Khetrapal added.

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