The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched new guidance on the role tobacco product regulation can play to reduce tobacco demand, save lives and raise revenues for health services.
The new guide, Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity’ and a collection of country approaches to regulation menthol was presented in the publication ‘Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products – Menthol in tobacco products’ and launched at the 2018 World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, South Africa.
Tobacco kills over seven million people ever year, and many countries have developed advanced policies to reduce demand for the product.
However, governments can do much more to implement regulations to control tobacco use, especially by exploiting tobacco product regulation.
An under-utilised tool
Dr Douglas Bettcher, the WHO’s director of the Department for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), says: “Tobacco product regulation is an under-utilised tool which has a critical role to play in reducing tobacco use.
“The tobacco industry has enjoyed years of little or no regulation, mainly due to the complexity of tobacco product regulation and lack of appropriate guidance in this area.
“These new tools provide a useful resource to countries to either introduce or improve existing tobacco product regulation provisions and end the tobacco industry ‘reign’.”
Bettcher adds: “Only a handful of countries currently regulate the contents, design features and emissions of tobacco products.
“This means that tobacco products are one of the few openly available consumer products that are virtually unregulated” along these lines.
Translating science into regulation
Due to the highly technical nature of these policy interventions as well as the difficulties in translating science into regulation, most countries hesitate to implement policies, explains Dr Vinayak Prasad, leader of the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.
He adds: “Failure to regulate represents a missed opportunity as tobacco product regulation, in the context of comprehensive control, is a valuable tool that complements other tried and tested tobacco control interventions such as raising taxes and ensuring smoke-free environments.”
The tobacco product regulation guide
‘Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity’ provides practical approaches to implementing tobacco testing. Such guidance is relevant to a wide range of countries in numerous settings, including those with inadequate resources to establish a testing facility.
This laboratory guide is a useful resource for countries and provides regulators and policymakers with comprehensible information on how to test tobacco products, what products to test, and how to use testing data in a meaningful way to support regulation.
Source: World Health Organization