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November 12th, 2016:

NLA raises legal age for tobacco to 20

The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) agreed in principle on Friday to raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes from 18 to 20 under an amended law regulating tobacco.

A total of 159 NLA members voted for the measure on Friday, with five abstentions, increasing the minimum legal age to buy cigarettes under the bill to amend the Tobacco Control Act.

The amendment was proposed by Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn in a bid to cut the number of teenage smokers.

A 21­member committee will be set up and given 15 days to scrutinise the bill.

Dr Piyasakol said the current Tobacco Control Act and the Non­Smoker’s Health Protection Act were obsolete and could not keep up with the behaviour of smokers.

Enforcement of both laws were also ineffective, he said. However, the Non­Smoker’s Health Act has not been amended.

Under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, any law associated with tobacco must be amended to protect the health of citizens, particularly youth, he added.

NLA member Wallop Tangkana­nurak said the amendment would help steer children and teenagers away from tobacco and smoking.

Many international tobacco firms have held promotional activities targeting young people aged under 20, he said, citing statistics showing smokers are getting younger every year.

Despite the majority of the NLA members agreeing with the bill, others expressed some reservations about it, saying it would would reduce demand for tobacco and put many growers out of work.

Gen Danai Meechuwet, chairman of the NLA committee on agriculture, said measures to provide assistance for tobacco farmers should be devised as well.

He also proposed establishing a subsidy fund for tobacco planters or encourage them to grow other crops.

Meanwhile, NLA member Montien Boonton also proposed devising measures to limit tobacco farming areas as well as new approaches to publicise the dangers of smoking among the illiterate.

Dr Piyasakol said he believed that after the draft amendment bill has passed, the health condition of Thais in general will greatly improve.

Remain vigilant against tobacco industry: WHO FCTC convention

The seventh conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) has concluded in New Delhi on Saturday with a call to remain “vigilant” against tobacco industry efforts to undermine the implementation of the UN treaty.

The WHO FCTC, which came into force in Feb 2005, is a treaty adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly on May 21 in 2003. It was the first WHO treaty adopted under article 19 of the UN agency’s constitution.

Under the treaty, countries around the world made laws and policies to fight against tobacco menace.

Parties at the conference, known as COP7, expressed their concerns by the tobacco industry’s persistent attempts to “infiltrate and manipulate” the workings of the Convention, according to a statement issued after the conference.

Expressing concern that the tobacco industry’s tactics at the international level affects implementation of the Convention at a country level, COP7 urged Parties to intensify “multi-sectoral” actions and cooperation to address strategies of the tobacco industry to undermine or subvert tobacco control.

“The long hours of debate and planning has produced a strong roadmap for global tobacco control for the future. Despite all the hard work by the Parties it is sad to see the interest, yet again, being promoted in the room,” Head of the Convention Secretariat, Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, said.

“It is determined to undermine and distract us from our goal – to fight against the tobacco epidemic that not only damages health and kills people, but also impoverishes those living in low to middle-income countries.”

Several “significant” decisions were adopted in the course of the six-day session when delegates addressed the longest agenda of any COP, indicating the enthusiasm of Parties and the growing role of tobacco control within areas of development and human rights, as well as public health.

The decisions reached Saturday, shaping the future of the Convention, is set against the stark reality that without strong tobacco control measures tobacco will kill about 1 billion people in the 21st Century.

By 2030, over 80 percent of the world’s tobacco-related mortality will be in low-and-middle income countries.

The decision on electronic nicotine delivery systems and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS) invites Parties that have not yet banned the import, sale and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS to consider either prohibition or regulating such products.

Some Parties expressed concern at the use of health claims as a marketing tool for ENDS/ENNDS.

The conference also urges Parties to adopt a whole-of-government approach and participation with stakeholders to promote alternatives to tobacco growing.

Parties recognise that scientific evidence has established that tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability.

The Parties have also requested further research on evidence on tobacco use and tobacco control and its consequences among girls and women, as well as boys and men, with special attention to vulnerable groups, in respect to social determinants of health.

The Parties also recognise that tobacco control is related to a number of Sustainable Development Goals and targets including those related to the environment and human rights.

The Parties requested the Convention Secretariat to strengthen the treaty relationship with other international agencies and frameworks, enhancing synergies towards common global health and development goals.