Myan­mar ranks worst in ASEAN to­bacco study

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - DAVE SIMPSON news­room@mm­times.com

Myan­mar has ranked last in a to­bacco con­trol study, lag­ging be­hind neigh­bour­ing coun­tries in ban­ning of smok­ing from in­door workspaces and pub­lic ar­eas.

WITH out-of-date poli­cies, cheap ac­cess, and ubiq­ui­tous us­age, Myan­mar ranks last in to­bacco con­trol, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey of the re­gion re­leased last week.

The South­east Asia To­bacco Con­trol Al­liance (SEATCA) study mea­sures each of the ASEAN coun­tries’ im­ple­men­ta­tion of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) frame­work for to­bacco con­trol. Myan­mar scored 45.7 out of 100, fall­ing just be­hind the Philip­pines and Laos. Sin­ga­pore topped the list with a score of 80.5.

Myan­mar adopted the Con­trol of Smok­ing and Con­sump­tion of To­bacco Prod­uct Law on May 4, 2006, to re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple us­ing to­bacco and to­bacco-re­lated prod­ucts. The law con­tains rules on non-smok­ing ar­eas and reg­u­la­tions to con­trol the sale, pro­duc­tion and ad­ver­tis­ing of to­bacco prod­ucts.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the SEATCA sur­vey, Myan­mar lags be­hind other coun­tries in its ban­ning of smok­ing in in­door workspaces, in­clud­ing bars and restau­rants, and in­door pub­lic places. It is the only coun­try that has not reg­u­larly up­dated its to­bacco con­trol pol­icy and strat­egy, ac­cord­ing to the study.

While it falls in the mid­dle of the pack for tax­a­tion of to­bacco prod­ucts, Myan­mar stands alone as the only coun­try in the re­gion that does not spend any pub­lic money on to­bacco con­trol, ac­cord­ing to the study. And, de­spite the tax­a­tion, cig­a­rettes are still fairly cheap: K2000 for a pack of Reg­u­lar Marl­boros and K800 for a pack of Red Ruby, the most pop­u­lar brand in the coun­try. Red Ruby’s are the cheap­est cig­a­rettes in the re­gion.

The coun­try is also mid­dling in its abil­ity to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion or ces­sa­tion pro­grams.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the gov­ern­ment does not al­low to­bacco in­dus­try of­fi­cials to sit on gov­ern­ment com­mit­tees or ad­vi­sory groups that are de­cid­ing health pol­icy. How­ever, the gov­ern­ment does give pref­er­en­tial treat­ment to the to­bacco in­dus­try, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Like many of the other coun­tries in the re­gion, reg­u­la­tion of to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing and spon­sor­ship goes un­en­forced in many medi­ums. To­bacco ads are banned in tele­vi­sion, movies, print me­dia, and bill­boards but there is no en­force­ment of to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing bans on the in­ter­net.

Reg­u­la­tions on the pack­ag­ing of to­bacco prod­ucts, on the other hand, are fairly strong when com­pared with other coun­tries in the re­gion. A ma­jor­ity of the pack­ag­ing is ded­i­cated to rais­ing aware­ness about the dan­gers of us­ing to­bacco.

In Fe­bru­ary, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced that new reg­u­la­tions would go into ef­fect on Septem­ber 1, re­quir­ing that health warn­ings and graphic photos il­lus­trat­ing the dan­gers of to­bacco use must ap­pear on all brands of cig­a­rette and other to­bacco prod­ucts man­u­fac­tured in Myan­mar.

How­ever, the to­bacco com­pa­nies asked for a six-month reprieve. The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health told The Myan­mar Times that fol­low­ing ap­peals from the com­pa­nies – which cited a lack of aware­ness among re­tail­ers that they could face pun­ish­ment if they sell in­cor­rectly pack­aged prod­ucts – the rules would not go into ef­fect un­til Fe­bru­ary 2017.

Once the new law is in full ef­fect, any­one in­volved in the pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion or sale of to­bacco prod­ucts that do not con­tain a graphic warn­ing la­bel could be sub­ject to a fine of be­tween K10,000 (US$7.95) and K30,000 for a first of­fence.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 sur­vey, the rate of to­bacco use in Myan­mar is 26.1 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing 43.8pc of men and 8.4pc of women.

Photo: Staff

Ac­cord­ing to a study by a re­gional to­bacco con­trol al­liance, Myan­mar’s smok­ing poli­cies are badly out of date.

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