Take steps to protect people against tobacco: WHO

New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) Improved tax measures, stronger law enforcement and enhanced cessation efforts are crucial in the South-East Asian region to protect people against the ill-effects of tobacco, World Health Organisation (WHO) said here on Tuesday.

“Increasing tobacco taxes is the most cost-effective measure of tobacco control, it is a win-win approach for government revenues and also monitor population’s health. Governments need to tax all tobacco products in a manner that people do not opt out of one expensive product to a less expensive one,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO’s director for South-East Asian region.

“At the moment most countries have a complex tax structure that is not only difficult to administer but also has loopholes that undermine both the health and revenue impacts of tobacco excise taxes,” she added.

Tobacco annually kills six million people. At least, 20 percent of them live in the region which accounts for 25 percent of the world’s smokers and almost 90 percent of smokeless tobacco users.

The recent estimates also establish the fact that there were about 246 million smokers and 290 million smokeless tobacco users in the South East Asian region.

The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic stated that between 2012 and 2014, Bangladesh, India and Maldives have made progress in increasing taxes on cigarettes.

“Bangladesh and Indonesia have implemented pictorial health warnings. Nepal has made progress in implementing bans on advertisement, promotion and sponsorships of tobacco products, while Myanmar has expanded smoke-free places. Thailand has successfully protected warning label requirements,” said the report.

The report also urges the countries in the region to strengthen their initiatives against tobacco that continues to cause premature deaths. Besides, it also leads to the increasing epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as chronic lung disease, heart ailments and cancer.

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