A recent editorial published in The Lancet on 28th May 2016, discussed the theme for ‘World No Tobacco Day’ celebrated on May 31st. The theme entailed the plain packaging of tobacco products. The initiative was amongst one of many efforts taken by leading government authorities to reduce the overall tobacco consumption worldwide.
‘World No Tobacco day’ is a positive incentive originally taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987 in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Since then, it has been celebrated every year to spread awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco usage and is intended towards refraining from tobacco consumption for a whole day.
Currently, for 2016, the WHO announced to go with the usage of plain packaging for cigarettes and for other promotional activities of cigarettes, thereby making smoking’s harmful risks more prominent.
WHO Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, whilst emphasizing the usefulness of this move said that, “Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of the tobacco products,” and added, “It kills the glamour which is appropriate for a product that kills people”.
According to a fact sheet released by the WHO, plain packaging was part of several measures that restricted the use of logos, colors, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard color and font style.
Dr. Chan believes that plain packaging restricts unnecessary advertising and promotion of the products by increasing the effectiveness of health warnings.
According to the WHO, tobacco control efforts made by various countries of the world have progressed over the past few years. Australia gained the title of the first country to fully implement plain packaging in December 2012 along with other major countries including Ireland, the United Kingdom and France. All of these countries passed laws in 2015, implementing plain packaging from May 2016. However, the progress in Africa and Asia is still not up to satisfactory levels and according to a document published in The Lancet in 2015, both continents are key markets for tobacco companies.
The document itself was a review conducted to create a tobacco-free world and revealed that the damage caused by tobacco usage was unacceptable and that support from all leading authorities was required to reduce the sale of tobacco products. The analysis was considered a step forward in achieving a tobacco-free world by 2040.
The findings from the current editorial published in The Lancet suggest that without proper implementation of the rules set by FCTC, the goal of achieving a 30% reduction in the prevalence of tobacco use by 2025 would not be possible by any means.
According to CDC records, approximately 5.4 million people die each year due to tobacco consumption with the number expected to increase to more than 8 million per year by 2030.
CDC is amongst one of the most prominent US federal agencies which strive for developing, conducting and supporting efforts for reducing tobacco consumption in collaboration with the WHO. One of the more important initiatives introduced by the joint efforts of both the organization is the development of ‘The Global Tobacco Surveillance System Data’ (GTSSData) i.e. a Web-based application that contains data from different tobacco related surveys conducted around the world.
The four major surveys done entail data on the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), the Global School Personnel Survey (GSPS), the Global Health Professions Student Survey (GHPSS) and the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS). The data from these systematic surveys enables authorities to monitor and track the current status of tobacco use alongside major tobacco control indicators.
Moreover, another valuable contribution to lower the tobacco consumption includes the establishment of the ‘Media Campaign Resource Center’ (MCRC). It provides access to many CDC-licensed advertisements developed by over 25 state health departments, nonprofit health organizations, and federal agencies. The goal of developing MCRC was to offer tools for finding, learning about, and ordering CDC-licensed tobacco counter-advertisements to tobacco-control organizations.
Other valuable incentives taken by CDC are the inclusion of different tools used in creating awareness against reduced tobacco intake. These were varied resources which included printable media, shareable media, subscription services and publication catalogs etc.
As a result of all these moves taken by leading authorities, a marked decrease of 7.4 % was reported by CDC in the usage of tobacco products among middle and high school students in the year 2015, compared to 17.7% in the year 2013.
On the other hand, a review study published on 6th April 2015 in a journal, Tobacco Control managed by British Medical Journal (BMJ) analyzed the FDA’s misplaced priorities regarding the premarket review of tobacco products which fall under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control (2009).
The premarket review was made mandatory to check the harmful potential of products before being sold in the market. The findings from the study stated that the FDA had not implemented the premarket review process in a manner that prioritized the protection of public health and that more improved strategies for reducing tobacco consumption were required on an international level.