A breath of fresh air

By | News & Politics
Smoking bans in Europe. Credit@ TREATED.com

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland has adopted an action plan – “Roadmap towards a smoke-free Finland” – with the purpose to drive out the use of tobacco products in the country by the end of the year 2040. The plan includes measures meant to prevent people from starting the habit and to also encourage those aiming to quit. The plan envisages the introduction of efficient tobacco control policies, in line with the requirements of the World Heath Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and related implementation guidelines, where appropriate, including standardised packaging of tobacco products, regular tax increases, extension of protective policies to residential properties, playgrounds, amusement parks and beaches, restricting the use of new tobacco products including the use of e-cigarettes in protected areas, and strengthened support provided by the healthcare system to those who may wish to embrace this initiative. New Zealand is running a similar project with the aspirational goal of making the country essentially tobacco free by 2025, in response to the recommendations of a landmark parliamentary inquiry by the Māori Affairs committee.

The WHO FCTC, which has been ratified by 178 countries, aims to protect present and future generations from the health, social, environmental and economic effects of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. As of 2012, 79% of the member parties reported they have taken steps towards strengthening their existing legislation or adopting new tobacco control legislation after ratifying the convention. Additionally, over half of the parties to the WHC FCTC reported they developed and implemented comprehensive tobacco control strategies, plans and programmes as required by the convention, which may come to prove their commitment to the project. A number of studies from various regions, particularly in North America and Europe, have shown implementation of legislation has led to significant improvements in respiratory symptoms and improved lung function within populations.

Daily smoking in Finland. Credit@The National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland

Daily smoking in Finland. Credit@The National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland

While numerous countries around the world seem to have made progress towards improving the air quality in work places and closed areas, on February 22nd, 2005 Bhutan has gone a step further by eliminating all smoking in public places, thus becoming the first nation in the world to do so. The Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan, which was enacted by the country’s parliament on June 16th, 2010, regulates tobacco and tobacco products, banning the cultivation, harvesting, production and sale of tobacco and tobacco products in Bhutan. The act also mandates the government of Bhutan to provide counselling and treatment to facilitate tobacco cessation. Premised on the physical health and well being of the Bhutanese people, key elements of the “Gross National Happiness”, the Tobacco Control Act recognises the spiritual, physical and social benefits of a clean air environment.

Other countries such as Costa Rica, the island of Alderney in the Channel Islands, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, the Republic of Macedonia, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Vatican City, have also enforced innovative regulations. In the UK, NHS is running a campaign to help tobacco users give up by offering free support – from local face-to-face services to advice over the phone and online chat. Starting from the premise smoking is optional while the opposite holds true for breathing, the World Health Organisation considers legislation to have an influence on the demand for tobacco by creating an environment where being breathing fresh air becomes more desirable and by aiming to shift social norms towards the acceptance of a healthy environment in everyday life. Along with tax measures, cessation measures, and education, a change of perception may represent an important element in promoting productive health outcomes; when effectively implemented they may become key parts of policy to support behavioural changes in favour of a healthy lifestyle.

How may countries insure the feasibility of their smoke-free campaigns? 

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