By Maryam Khalfan - MUSCAT — The Sultanate joined hands with the rest of the world to mark the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ to celebrate the successes of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in the fight to curb tobacco epidemic, at the City Season’s Hotel yesterday.
Nonetheless, in spite of the fact that the WHO recognises that challenges remain for the public health treaty to reach its full potential as the world’s most powerful tobacco control tool, this annual occasion is aimed at drawing the global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use.
The occasion, which is held under the slogan ‘The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’ is also designed at stressing on the negative health effects of tobacco use, which currently results in a number of deaths worldwide.
The event was held under the auspices of Dr Mohammed bin Saif al Hosni, Under-Secretary for Health Affairs, in the presence of WHO consultants and officials of the National Tobacco Control Committee (NTCC) among others.
In his speech on the occasion, Brigadier General, Issa al Kiyumi, Director-General of Customs, Royal Oman Police, discussed the Sultanate’s efforts in controlling tobacco use and highlighted the achievements obtained in this field in implementation of Article 8 of the Framework Convention that is related with protection against exposure to passive in co-operation with the NTCC.
Also speaking on the occasion, Dr Fatma bint Saleem al Awaa, Adviser for Elimination of Tobacco, WHO — Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) presented models of successful anti-tobacco campaigns in the countries of the region. She also highlighted on the significance of the FCTC since it was first adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2003 and attracted 172 countries to become parties to the FCTC.
“The Convention contains core demand and supply reduction measures, which over time oblige states to protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke, ban tobacco advertising and sales to minors, put large health warnings on packages of tobacco ban or limit additives to tobacco products, increase tobacco taxes and to form a national co-ordinating mechanism for tobacco control,” remarked Dr Al Awaa.
According to WHO estimate, this year, the tobacco epidemic will kill nearly six million people, including some 600,000 non-smokers who will die from exposure to tobacco smoke. By the year 2030, tobacco could kill eight million people, it is learnt.
In a message presented on behalf of Dr Hussein A Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the director called for full implementation and enforcement of, and compliance with, the Convention, which is vital to decrease the considerable health and economic burden caused by tobacco.
“Despite the promising progress that the region has witnessed since the beginning of the development of the Convention, a more comprehensive approach still needs to be adopted if rapid and sustained reduction in tobacco consumption is to be achieved.”
Tobacco use is one of the biggest contributors to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases such as heart attack, stroke, cancer and emphysema, which accounts for nearly, 63 per cent of all deaths among which about 80 per cent occur in low and middle-income countries. Up to half of all tobacco users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease, remarked the official.
Many of the countries in the EMRO have made tremendous strides in implementing the treaty. For instance Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Jordan and Pakistan require health warnings that cover between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of the surface of tobacco packages.
Meanwhile, Egypt, Gaza Strip, Pakistan, Tunisia, Sudan and West Bank raised taxes on tobacco products to an equivalent of more than 50 per cent of the retail price.
Iran, Pakistan and Syria banned smoking in closed public places; Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and United Arab Emirates banned all types of tobacco advertising.
The Convention is a means for parties and non-parties alike to curb the tobacco epidemic.
Although the majority of countries in the region are now parties to the WHO-FCTC, non-parties can still use the Convention as their guide in designing and implementing legislation at national level to protect themselves and their peoples, urged the official.
“The tool for a tobacco-free world is at our fingertips,” stated Dr Gezairy adding that tobacco control cannot and will not advance to the next level unless all partners work together towards this common goal.”
Where technical and funding gaps exist, parties must gather the necessary resources, with the essential help of the international community. WHO offers technical assistance and policy guidance to its member states to help them meet their commitments under the treaty.
The FCTC has proved to be more than just an ordinary Convention. It has fulfilled its promise, creating a whole new public health era for tobacco control. Its provisions have been trialed, tested and proved effective in many countries, globally and regionally, stated the official.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the occasion, the WHO honoured Dr Jawad bin Ahmed al Lawati, Director of Non-communicable Diseases, Ministry of Health for his continuous commitment and achievements in the field of tobacco control in the Sultanate.
This annual, WHO award is given to national Tobacco control Advocates.