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WHO Outlines A Plan To Stop Illicit Tobacco Sales

The WHO reports seven million people die prematurely every year from tobacco-related causes.

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This Way Tobacco Smoke Can Affect Your Heart. Pixabay
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Parties to a new global treaty to combat the illicit sale of tobacco products have taken the first steps toward cracking down on this multi-billion dollar trade. At a three-day meeting at the headquarters of the WHO in Geneva they have outlined a plan to shut down the lucrative black market trade in tobacco.

A global tobacco treaty (Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products) entered into force on September 25, with 48 countries joining the new protocol, which is part of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC). Two-thirds of the parties have enacted or strengthened national legislation aimed at tackling illicit trade in tobacco products.

Parties attending the meeting have set up a working group to create a monitoring system to track and trace the movement of tobacco products. They hope this global information sharing system will be up and running by 2023.

WHO
Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gives a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, VOA

Head of the FCTC Secretariat, Vera da Costa e Silva, says illicit trade accounts for one in 10 cigarettes consumed. She says these cigarettes are low-priced and more affordable for young people and vulnerable populations. She says this results in increased consumption of the toxic product by these groups.

She told VOA the black market in tobacco thrives in both rich and poor countries, but it is a much bigger problem in developing countries.

“In the streets of developing countries, you can see all over the world sales of illicit trade of tobacco products. They are openly in their markets…. When it comes to the distribution, this is linked to street sales, to bootlegging as well through borders and even to sales to and by minors. That is a real problem of illicit trade in tobacco products,” she said.

tobacco, WHO
This is a diagram of R.J. Reynolds’ Eclipse cigarette, which featured a carbon tip that was lit, heating the tobacco instead of burning it. The product did not do well during market tests; it was rebranded as Revo but still failed to catch on with consumers. The product is no longer listed on the company’s website. VOA

Da Costa e Silva said this flourishing illegal trade undermines tobacco control policies and public health. She said it also fuels organized crime and increases tobacco profits through tax evasion, resulting in substantial losses in governments’ revenues.

Also Read: New Heated Tobacco to be Regulated As Other Tobacco Products

She said studies show governments lose $31 billion in taxes annually from the illegal trafficking in tobacco products.

The WHO reports seven million people die prematurely every year from tobacco-related causes. (VOA)

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Road Traffic Accidents Cause 1.35 Mn Deaths Each Year: WHO

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

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Traffic Crashes, Road Traffic
Two bikes were involved in an accident with a bus that crashed and turned on its roof near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, March 7, 2015. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.

In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.

The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.

Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency’s Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.

Traffic Signals, Road Traffic
Traffic and congestion on roads is frequent in all cities of India. Wikimedia

“Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles,” Krug said. “So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles.”

The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.

Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.

Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

“It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not,” Krug told VOA. “Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc.”

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

Also Read: HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly in Pakistan: WHO

However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking. (VOA)