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Smoke-free public spaces

Southeast Asia: Tobacco Industry Interference Index

1 Oct, 15 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

Tobacco industry interference  in public health policy making continues to be a significant problem in ASEAN countries. This is the main finding of the recent report, Tobacco Industry Interference Index: 2015 ASEAN Report on Implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3, released last month by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). The report found that overall there is only marginal improvement in the implementation of FCTC Article 5.3 in the ASEAN region in 2013 compared to previous years (2010-2012).

Brunei Darussalam continues to deliver the best performance in ensuring its tobacco control policies are not compromised and are strictly implemented. Indonesia, on the other hand, remains at the bottom with the government allowing the tobacco industry to participate fully in the development of policies as well as accommodating its requests in delaying tobacco control measures.

Countries were ranked in the order of their implementation of protective measures, from best to poor, as follows: Brunei, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Although it is a tobacco growing country, and despite the government owning the Thai Tobacco Monopoly, Thailand showed the biggest improvement in protecting public health policies from industry interference. The government does not accept contributions from the tobacco industry and government officials do not endorse or participate in tobacco industry corporate social responsibility initiatives.  There was a slight improvement in efforts undertaken by Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Philippines; however progress remains inadequate agains the grim toll of the tobacco epidemic confronting these countries.

Countries that face high levels of unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, are vulnerable to high levels of tobacco industry meddling in policy development. The Philippines however continues to show leadership in implementing a Civil Service Commission and Department of Health Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC), which provides a Code of Conduct for all government officials when interacting with the tobacco industry.

“Transparency is important when dealing with the tobacco industry. Many governments do not have a procedure for disclosing their interactions with the industry. This is an important first step to prevent and reduce tobacco industry interference,” said Dr. Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor of SEATCA. “We are dealing with an industry that continues to sell a product that kills. It misleads the public and intimidates governments. Governments need to do better to protect the public’s health.”

The ASEAN region has about 125 million smokers and more than 500,000 tobacco-related deaths a year. The tobacco industry has targeted the ASEAN region, which has a large young population, to grow its profits.

The report, Tobacco Industry Interference Index: 2015 ASEAN Report on Implementation of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3, is available at: http://seatca.org/dmdocuments/TII%20Index%202015_F_11Aug.pdf

 

Urgent action to amend Austria’s tobacco control laws

27 Apr, 15 | by Becky Freeman, Web Editor

Prof. Manfred Neuberger writes:

Since 2007 Austria has received the poorest score on the Tobacco Control Scale. While smoking prevalence and tobacco consumption decreased on average in the European Union, an opposite trend has occurred in Austria. Child smoking has increased dramatically since the 1990s. Cigarettes are available around the clock in thousands of vending machines, circumventing advertising bans and enabling easy access by children.

Legally, cigarettes can be bought at age 16, but half of 13-15 year olds smokers reported having bought cigarettes in tobacco shops. At age 15 already 18% of boys and 21% of girls are smoking daily. Tobacco shops are permitted to sell goods aimed at children and both indoor smoking and tobacco advertising is permitted. Tobacconists also distribute newspapers and are a powerful lobby group. Annual state revenues from cigarette consumption by minors in Austria exceeded 60 million €, but none of this revenue was budgeted for tobacco use prevention. With minor exceptions much of this work is left to unpaid volunteers (e.g. www.aerzteinitiative.at).

Children are permitted to enter smoking rooms and public smoking is visible to children as a normal adult behavior in most hospitality venues. While Austria ratified the WHO FCTC in 2005, it has had limited impact until now. Partial smoking bans were introduced in 2001 in workplaces and in public places in 2009 (with sanctions for violations), but this law is not well enforced. A further summary of the law and the associated problems can be read here.

littel girl smoking

Legally, cigarettes can be bought at age 16, but half of 13-15 year olds smokers reported having bought cigarettes in tobacco shops Piulet/flikr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The smoking ban in hospitality venues larger than 50m² provided the possibility of smoking rooms and the provisions that smoke should not leak into the nonsmoking areas was infringed regularly. Other violations of the partial smoking ban in the hospitality industry had to be reported by customers and were treated with long delays by local municipalities, a time-consuming method to enforce the law and frequently unsuccessful, even if taken to court.

Because partial smoking bans have failed, amendments to the tobacco law were prepared by the government, foreseeing a total ban in all schools (up to now in compulsory schools only), in the hospitality industry (including clubs, tents, multipurpose rooms), in hotels (except for smoking rooms, which must not serve for eating, drinking or sleeping), in all commercial transportation, and in tobacco shops used for mailing and other purposes, which still need to be specified. Use of water pipes or electronic cigarettes will also be banned where smoking is forbidden.

Crucial elements still missing from the legislation are: technical specifications for smoking rooms, such as a clear definition of their use for smoking only, clarification that the smoking ban applies to all rooms of hospitality venues (including kitchen, corridors, etc.), a ban on smoking and tobacco advertising in all shops and rooms accessible to minors, and a smoking ban in hospitals, on children’s playgrounds and in private cars carrying children.

The EU Tobacco Product Directive still needs to be included in the draft Austrian legislation and necessitates that the law enters into force in May 2016. The present plan to postpone this date until May 2018 is irresponsible and demonstrates the weakness of the government against the chamber of commerce.

The worst omission of the new Austrian draft is the lack of improvement in implementation and enforcement of the law. The present system of reporting violations by customers has failed, especially in small communities with only one inn where filing a complaint would be too personally risky. For example, some people who reported local innkeepers were pictured on a “wanted poster” at the entrance of the inn and were then forbidden to reenter.

Officials who were sent to venues for inspections only after customer complaint, could downplay the offence or postpone the decision by up to 28 months. During this time no other complaint about the same venue would be investigated.

It appears that this ineffective enforcement system will be continued. The draft law only names work inspection and food inspection as additional possibilities for control, but only during routine visits done for other purposes, and in the case of serious offences. Additionally, the draft law states that these controls must not incur extra costs. It is doubtful that rare and announced controls by such inspectors will improve the already poor compliance. Improving compliance for the better may require police assistance, as they could make unannounced controls during busy periods, such as at night in discotheques and other venues where young people meet.

Comments on the draft legislation are accepted until May 8th, 2015 at the ministry of health <leg.tavi@bmg.gv.at>, the ministry of finance <e-recht@bmf.gv.at> and the parliament <begutachtungsverfahren@parlinkom.gv.at>

Indonesia: court upholds tobacco tax to fund health

4 Oct, 14 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

Abdillah Ahsan
Faculty of Economics, University of Indonesia

Good news on tobacco control from Indonesia is rare. Recently, however there was a victory in the area of tobacco tax.

On 1 January 2014, Law No. 28 of 2009 on regional taxes was introduced, which allows local provinces in Indonesia to charge a local tax to cigarettes. The tariff is 10% of cigarette excise.

This tax collectively amounts to about USD 796 Million, a significant sum. Following successful international examples for funding tobacco control, a minimum of 50% of the funds raised from the tax are to be used for health promotion, in particular through public anti-smoking campaigns and enforcing smoke free public spaces. This means local governments have the authority to decide on strengthening tobacco control measures for their provinces and cities.

Unfortunately, five smokers challenged this cigarette tax policy in the Constitutional Court, calling for its abolition. Their argument was that the policy harms the constitutional rights of cigarette smokers as consumers by requiring them to pay both excise tax and local cigarette tax. They argued this amounts to double taxation, which is prohibited by the tax law and is unjust.

However public health won, and the suit was rejected by the Constitutional Court in May 19, 2014. In the judgment, the Court stated that in accordance with Law No. 11/1995 on Excise Tax, the subject of excise tax is manufacturers, distributors, and importers, while its object includes cigarettes, cigars, tobacco leaf and tobacco strips. In the provisions of Articles 26 and 27 of the Local Tax Law on the other hand, the object of local cigarette taxes is consumption of cigarettes and the subject of this tax is cigarette consumers. “Thus, there is a difference between the object and the subject of excise tax in comparison to the object and subject of local cigarette tax,” said one of the Constitutional Judges.

The Court ruled that the cigarette excise tax paid together with local cigarette tax is the “politics of taxation” to increase state revenues as well as provide compensation on the negative health impacts of smoking. According to the judge, “Simultaneous excise tax and local cigarette tax have positive impact on reducing cigarette consumption and improve society’s health.”

Several benefits will arise from the Court’s rejection of the suit and implementation of the tax. The first is that the local cigarette tax will increase cigarette prices, thereby making cigarettes less affordable, and in turn likely direct reducing smoking uptake among children. The second benefit is local governments will receive increased funds as revenue to go towards local development and increased living standards. A third benefit is the increased funding available to be used exclusively for health promotion and law enforcement. This includes anti-tobacco campaigns and strengthened enforcement of tobacco control regulations such as non smoking areas.

Together, these measures will change the scenario of tobacco control at the local level and enhance local government efforts to better protect children and the poor from the harms of tobacco. It represents a welcome step forward in a country that has been dubbed a paradise for tobacco companies due to lax regulation.

Postcard from Myanmar: tea houses and tobacco promotion

22 Apr, 14 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Guest post by Peter Worland

The ubiquitous Myanmar tea house. You can hear the buzz of Burmese conversation emanating from such meeting places day and night. Old people on their daily catch up with neighbours meet here. Young people hang out and compare their new mobile phones here. New mums show off their beautiful babies here. We love these plentiful and congenial meeting places and can’t wait to find a table every morning as “coffee-o’clock” comes round. They call them tea houses and yes, the green tea comes complementary – but you pay for the coffee, and what coffee it is!

For foreigners like us it’s quite a display. With a broad smile and a flourish we see the young Burmese attendant hold a can high in the air and squirt condensed milk into a tin mug before adding a hot coffee mixture and depositing the combined steaming sweet stuff into tiny white cups. We have had to leave our usual coffee tastes behind, reminding ourselves that this is not our favourite Italian cafe back home in Sydney. No tattooed baristas proudly producing perfect espressos here. Myanmar coffee might not be to our taste, but it’s how the locals like it. So we’ve just had to get used to it.

But there is something happening in Myanmar’s tea houses that we will not get used to, nor accept: the massive increase in young people smoking, and the way in which the happy atmosphere and simple daily pleasantries of this much-loved tea house tradition have been besmirched by cigarettes and tobacco promotion.

Over the last four years my partner and I have been visiting Myanmar, we have seen one of the poorest countries in the world begin a magnificent transformation. When we first came, villagers we talked to would not speak Aung San Suu Kyi’s name for fear they would be taken away. Internet and mobile phones were restricted, new cars were as rare as hens’ teeth. But no more: the Myanmar that was a closed oppressive place four years ago with less than 300,000 visitors a year, will in 2014 welcome more than one million people. It is opening up to, and being accepted by, the world.

Must these people, now on the brink of political liberation after waiting for 60 years, be conned by the great marketers, big tobacco, into a life of increased disease and premature death?

In the tea house we see all the tricks and methods we witnessed in our youth in Australia. On each table next to the chilli sauce and serviette dispenser is a small clear plastic container containing loose cigarettes. Yesterday there was a promotion, so these cigarettes were free. Today the same cigarettes are five cents each. Pavlovian behaviour predicts that each day more and more young people will experiment. As we watch we see this happening; finding five cents to purchase a single cigarette is easy. The young boys who deliver our coffees with laughter and jokes also carry loose cigarettes from table to table, unashamedly pushing them on all they meet – old and young, some very young. We despair. The more who take it up, the more fashionable it becomes and so big tobacco’s insidious recruitment rolls on. 

Tobacco is arguably the most efficient man-made ‘murdering machine’ of non-combatants the world has known. Yet just as some countries are turning the tide, the peddling of this poison in many emerging economies is growing exponentially. Myanmar ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004, but we see no impact of it in the daily rituals of the tea houses. Does opening up to the world also have to mean welcoming the tobacco industry to the country?

As a tobacco warrior from the mid-1980s in Australia, I remember well the battle to get the first legislation in the world to ban tobacco advertising and hypothecate cigarette levies for health promotion purposes through the upper house of the Victorian state parliament. I personally witnessed Bruce Redpath (a noted Cancer Council supporter and prominent Australian business leader) phone the three main funders of the political party which were threatening to block the legislation. I listened to these leaders agree that “no one in business worth their salt would work for a tobacco company today. It is time to act?”

Act they did, and in 1987 the legislation passed into law. The Victorian Health Promotion Association – VicHealth – was born, and today the state of Victoria is a global leader in tobacco control. In 2001, Myanmar’s neighbour Thailand took the same step and established the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. Thailand’s achievements in tobacco control in the 13 years since show that the rise of the tobacco epidemic is not an inevitable and unavoidable by-product of economic development.

As we sip on our super-sweet coffees in our now favourite Mandalay tea house and look around us at the unfettered tobacco promotion, we can only hope that leaders like Bruce Redpath will emerge with the intellectual and moral courage to say it’s now time to act to control tobacco promotion in Myanmar; to stop the epidemic in its tracks.

Peter Worland is a former advisor to the Victorian Minister for Health. The full story of the Victorian Tobacco Act 1987 can be accessed here.

Eurovegas and the challenge to Spain’s smoke-free law: neoliberalism vs public health

3 Oct, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Aser García Rada, Madrid

The Spanish law banning smoking in all public premises since January 2010 has become one of the greatest national public health achievements in decades. It modified a previous law from 2006 that banned smoking in enclosed working environments but allowed it in certain bars and restaurants. The tobacco lobby fought strongly against this change as they were interested in exporting what was known as “the Spanish model”: allowing smoking in places of entertainment maintained the social acceptance of a drug that kills 700,000 Europeans annually. To Big Tobacco´s dismay, the 2010 model soon spread to other countries.

According to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics, smoking prevalence has decreased from 26.2% in 2006 to 23.95% in 2012, the lowest rate in 25 years. Heart attacks have dropped by 11% after the 2006 legislation was established, so further drops are expected from 2010 on. The EU Commission has stated that Spain has experienced the largest decrease in passive smoking of the EU over the last years: 70% less, well above the EU average of 46%. In addition, 82% of the population –including many smokers- agree with current legislation, says a poll by the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (SEMFYC). In fact, social acceptance is increasing, according to the last health barometer of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality.

The current law has only been weakened once. It was done by the previous social democrat Government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero following pressure from the largest Spanish department Store El Corte Inglés to allow the sale of smoking products in convenience stores such as their Opencor chain. Now Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands casino chairman, 12th on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans and one of the most important magnates of the gambling industry, has announced the construction of the largest casino resort in Europe in the autonomous community of Madrid, a project popularly known as Eurovegas. Adelson, whose company is under criminal investigation for possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and has just agreed to pay $47 million to the U.S. to settle a money-laundering case, has requested that Spain’s smokefree law be weakened to allow  smoking in the casino’s premises. He promises that the casino project will create 200,000 jobs and bring prosperity to the region.

Thus, the regional and national governments are salivating. Amendments to labor and urban planning laws and tax breaks have already been negotiated. The repeated requests from the president of the autonomous community of Madrid, Ignacio González, from the conservative People´s Party (PP), that the central government amends the law seem to be having their effect. Recently the minister of health, social services and equality, Ana Mato, also from the PP, said that the Government is “looking for ways” to “reconcile the protection of health with the creation of jobs”. In fact, according to the newspaper El Mundo, the change has already been decided: smoking will be allowed in certain areas on all current 41 casinos throughout the country and on those to be built in Eurovegas. The daily La Razón states that the law will be amended before November.

The EU Commission considers that the economic impact of banning smoking across the EU has been limited, neutral and even positive in bars and restaurants industry except for maybe on gambling premises, a probably correct estimate according to the available scientific literature. However, the comorbidity between tobacco smoking and gambling seems clear. Tobacco might have neurochemical effects that enhance gambling behaviour (1) and problem gambling severity and amount of money spent, have been related to smoking (2). Must we create further death and disease to have jobs?

Health professionals are fighting the change and the global community is watching. An umbrella platform of different tobacco control organizations (porquenosotrosno.org) has launched the campaign Don´t touch the law to request international support to prevent the weakening of these public health protections. But the tobacco lobby´s tentacles remain long. The presidents of five autonomous communities in which tobacco is cultivated –Extremadura, Andalusia, La Rioja, the Canary Islands and Cantabria-  recently signed a document opposing the new stronger Directive on tobacco control under discussion at the EU during a joint meeting celebrated in the headquarters of the tobacco company Altadis. Meanwhile, according to members of the Directorate General for Health & Consumers of the European Commission, there is a growing concern that former health commissioner John Dalli’s resignation may have been related to Big Tobacco’s strategies.

Health workers and other citizens must be aware of these manoeuvres and press health authorities at all levels that no concessions must be given to tobacco companies or others whose interests in profit threaten public health.

References:

1.- Mcgrath, DS and Barret, SP (2009), The comorbidity of tobacco smoking and gambling: A review of the literature. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28: 676–681. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2009.00097.x

2.- McGrath DS, Barrett SP, Stewart SH, and McGrath PR. A Comparison of Gambling Behavior, Problem Gambling Indices, and Reasons for Gambling Among Smokers and Nonsmokers Who Gamble: Evidence from a Provincial Gambling Prevalence Study Nicotine Tob Res (2012) 14 (7): 833-839

Spain: Government urged not to bow to US casino boss on smoking ban challenge

18 Sep, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

 

Support the DON’T TOUCH THE LAW campaign (http://porquenosotrosno.com/web/smoke-free-spain-eng.html)  

The Spanish National Committee of Smoking Prevention, a coalition of scientific and medical organisations, together with official professional colleges of doctors, nurses, psychologists and dentists, and international health experts, have condemned proposed changes to Spain’s smoke free laws.

Exceptions to the law are being demanded by Sheldon Adelson, a US gambling magnate who wants smoking to be permitted in a casino he plans to build in Madrid. Dubbed EuroVegas, it is expected to be the largest gambling resort in Europe. (BMJ report here.)

The current tobacco act of Spain, introduced in 2010, prohibits smoking in all enclosed public spaces, and enjoys widespread respect and support from the Spanish population. Prior to its introduction, the 2005 act allowed smoking at the bar owner’s discretion.

Government sources are reportedly working on a formula that will legally enable regions to make exceptions in the legislation. According to Spanish media outlet El Pias, Vice President Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría has said that “there is a procedure for amendment of laws”.

Public health doctor Joseba Zabala Galán, coordinator of the grassroots movement Don’t Touch the Law, and member of the board of the Spanish National Committee of Tobacco Prevention said: “Allowing the 17 autonomous communities the ability to establish differences in the smoke-free laws, besides being a legal by-pass, would mean the end of the current Spanish smoke-free model. It would be a terrible precedent that would weaken the current successful strength and collective belief of the smoke-free law as a real and effective health public tool. We urge all concerned citizens and organisations to support our campaign to keep the current law.”

New WHO report: more tobacco advertising bans, smoke free spaces save millions of lives

11 Jul, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

The World Health Organisation Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2013 was launched in Panama City on 10 July. Panama was selected as the venue for this high level, global event in recognition of the country’s leadership in tobacco control.

The report shows the number of people worldwide covered by at least one life-saving measure to limit tobacco use has more than doubled in the last five years. Three billion people are now covered by national anti-tobacco campaigns. Other highlights include:

  • The number of people covered by tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) bans, the focus of this year’s report, increased by almost 400 million people, the majority of whom reside in low and middle-income countries.
  • 24 countries with 694 million people have introduced complete TAPS bans. However, 67 countries currently do not ban any TAPS activities, or have a ban that excludes advertising in national broadcast and print media.
  •  Effective health warning labels on tobacco packaging continue to be established by more countries. In the past five years, a total of 20 countries with 657 million people put strong warning label requirements in place.
  • More than half a billion people in nine countries have gained access to appropriate cessation services in the past five years. However, there has been little progress since 2010, as only four additional countries with a combined population of 85 million were newly provided access to cost-covered services including a toll-free national quit line.
  • Creation of smoke-free public places and workplaces continues to be the most commonly established measure at the highest level of achievement. 32 countries have passed complete smoking bans covering all work places, public places and public transportation means between 2007 and 2012, protecting nearly 900 million additional people.
  • Nearly 3.8 billion people (54% of the world’s population) live in a country that has aired at least one national anti-tobacco mass media campaign on TV and/or radio for a duration of at least three weeks in the past two years.

The report is the fourth in a series by WHO on MPOWER measures – the six evidence-based tobacco control measures that are the most effective in reducing tobacco use. (Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies, Protect people from tobacco smoke, Offer help to quit tobacco use, Warn people about the dangers of tobacco, Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and Raise taxes on tobacco

Read more and download the report here.

Click here for additional reporting from the World Lung Foundation.

World No Tobacco Day in the Western Pacific

29 Jun, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Report credit: Annabel Lyman, FCA Pacific Island Countries Coordinator

Every year, WHO recognizes individuals or organisations in each of the six WHO Regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control. There were 6 awardees in the Western Pacific region this year including the Cook Islands Ministry of Health. The Cook Islands ratified the FCTC in 2004, and was the first Pacific Island country to produce and work toward a national Tobacco Control Action Plan. Among other successes, areas where the country has made great strides in the past year include a tobacco tax increase and successful launch of a unique Blue Ribbon campaign.

Several countries participated in a project designed to encourage sharing of information by email.  Participating countries chose a letter from W, N, T or D to display as part of their activities with a flag in the photo.  The intention is to make a poster of tobacco control in the Pacific by “stitching” the photos together featuring the letters to spell out WNTD 2013.

A full report and pictures of activities in many of the countries in the region can be downloaded here: WNTD booklet – pacific

Highlights include:

  • Cook Islands – The ministry of health sponsored a poem and story competition as well as quizzes at Titi-kaveka College and Avarua school, with prizes for winning students. The MOH promoted tips on how to stop smoking and how to prevent youth from starting.
  • Palau – a run was held promoting WNTD. The letter W was chosen to promote the event; as runners/walkers crossed the finish line, they received their W. Taped to the back was a raffle ticket.
  • Federated States of Micronesia Kosrae – a policy makers’ advocacy meeting was held to discuss Article 13 of the FCTC, and a plan was developed to push for passage of a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Niue – Led by Miss Niue contestants, school children created slogans, cheers and dances. The Director of Health and Minister of Health joined in with an impromptu comedy piece, and the Minister committed to championing the passage of a Tobacco Control Bill.
  • Papua New Guinea – primary school students developed a banner and posters, which were then used in a walk. This was followed by a series of drama performances and poem readings.
  • Marshall Islands – national and local police teamed up with tobacco control coalition team members to remove all tobacco advertising and promotion signs and illegal point of sales displays and replace them with WNTD posters provided by WHO in Fiji. There was also a walkathon, followed by a ‘battle of the bands’ for the best song about health. The winning band will record their song and have it broadcast on the radio.
  • Samoa – a bike ride around the island was the culmination of a week of campaigning and advocating for smoke free buildings.
  • Tuvalu – a week of community awareness was undertaken in schools, workplaces, community halls and businesses. On WNTD itself, two government officials were part of a radio broadcast as Quit Smoking Champions.
  • Solomon Islands – following a range of public awareness raisings activities in the lead up to WNTD, a public parade was held, with speeches by government officials, the WHO representative, and a youth representative. There was also a singing performance and live radio talk. Champion awards were presented to advocates of the SI tobacco free initiative, including government agencies, a church, taxi service and global youth leadership group.
  • Vanuatu – soccer and volleyball tournaments were held for young people. There was also an official event with speakers from the ministry of health and WHO, which was broadcast on national radio.
  • Tonga – The main hospital was launched as the first tobacco free hospital in Tonga. This was covered by both television and radio, and was complemented by billboard displays at the hospital and near the airport. A school was also launched as the first tobacco free school.
  • Kiribati – as the first tobacco act was passed in April 2013, this formed the theme for Kiribati, ‘Support Tobacco Act’ (Kaota am boutoka nakon te Tua ibukin Kauarerekean Kabonganaan te Baake iaon Kiribati.) To raise awareness, activities included radio shows, press releases, awareness programs, a smoke free basketball tournament and public program with a drama show, health check and quiz.
  • Fiji – promotion of new cessation assistance services was held at a health centre, along with news about new pictorial health warnings and tobacco free sites. A skit about the physical and social impacts of tobacco use was performed by a local youth group in collaboration with nursing school students.

World No Tobacco Day Vietnam: social media, a bike rally and public transport get the message out

29 Jun, 13 | by Marita Hefler, News Editor

 

Contributors and photos: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance; Stephen Hamill, World Lung Foundation; Tran Vu, Vietnam Public Health Association; Nguyen Xuan Lam, Vietnam Public Health Association.

The national week of Tobacco Control in Vietnam kicked off with a ceremony held on 25 May. Organized by the Vietnam Committee on Smoking or Health (VINACOSH), it attracted 450 participants from the National Assembly, Government Offices, related Ministries, WHO Vietnam, Tobacco Control Working Groups, mass media and students.

Dr Sarah England from Bloomberg Philanthropies expressed congratulations for the approval of Vietnam’s new tobacco control law and conveyed an official letter of Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York city to the Vietnam Prime Minister for the great achievements of Vietnam in curbing the tobacco epidemic. The Vice Minister of Health, Vietnam conveyed his appreciation and acknowledged the considerable support of all ministries, sectors and mass organizations, international donors (Bloomberg Philanthropies, SEATCA) for the cause of tobacco control in Vietnam. Click here to read more and see photos from the event at the SEATCA webpage.

Hà N?i: L? mít tinh hu?ng ?ng Ngày Th? gi?i Không thu?c lá (31/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social media for public engagement

VINACOSH, together with a coalition of Vietnamese health groups and international NGOs including the World Lung Foundation, collaborated in an innovative effort to use online media to engage the public around implementation of a new smoke-free law.

The effort combined broadcast television spots with an online petition at vn0khoithuoc.com (‘smoke free Vietnam’) and Facebook page to grow awareness of which types of public spaces were covered by the new law, and to allow people to pledge to support the law and share the campaign with their friends through social media. The effort also included a mobile short code that allowed supporters to SMS in their support. Vietnam has 143 mobile subscribers for every 100 inhabitants, so learning how to best use mobiles to support tobacco control advocacy is very important for the success of future campaigns.

Mobile and social media efforts were particularly energised by a partnership with the Youth Union of Vietnam , a steadfast supporter of tobacco control policies in Vietnam, who sent out the word and provided ‘on the ground support’ in the form of hundreds of youth demonstrating at press conferences, attending campaign events, using social media and SMS to build supporters for the online campaign, and going business-to-business to provide smokefree signs and alert owners of their new obligations under the law. Already, almost 3000 supporters have joined the community online, and the 500 person Facebook community is growing fast, with a vibrant community – mostly high school youth – who are sharing photos and ideas about tobacco control on the page.

Hue City (Central Vietnam)

The Hue Municipal People’s Committee in collaboration with the Vietnam Public Health Association hosted WNTD and national No Tobacco Week. The launch event was held with about 300 participants from the health sector, youth union, women’s union, labour union and delegates from provincial people’s committee, city leaders, representatives from government departments and other organisations. ‘Smoke-free city’ signage on all the municipal public transportation was also organized, with 1600 public transportation vehicles including taxis, buses, passenger cars, pedicabs and tourist boats to be badged with the “smoke-free city” sign in coming weeks.

A workshop on ‘Evaluating the implementation of smoke-free program in Hue city’ was also held on May 27th. This was followed by outreach to public facilities to raise public awareness about the availability and implementation of smoke free policies in Vietnam.

Nha Trang City (Central Vietnam)

A bike parade was held on June 9th 2013 with the theme ‘Environment protection and smoke-free Nha Trang city’. Supported by Nha Trang Municipal People’s Committee in collaboration with Vietnam Public Health Association and Khanh Hoa Provincial Public Health Association, the event attracted 2000 participants including many young people, as well as Mr Takeshi Kasai, Representative of WHO in Vietnam.

There were several other events including 500 balloons dropping with the message ‘environment protection and Smoke-free Nha Trang city’; a no smoking flash mob; dancing and some entertainment shows.

Vietnam pic 2 Vietnam picture 1

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