GIS – 15 May 2013: The Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr. Lormus Bundhoo proceeded to the opening of a one-day workshop on the “Draft National Action Plan for Tobacco Control (2013-2016)” this morning at La Canelle, Domaine les Pailles. The new Action Plan aims at strengthening and consolidating tobacco control policies and strategies.
In his address, the minister recalled that the first plan on tobacco control, implemented from 2008 to 2012, was successful and served as a model to many African countries. “Legislative measures contained in the plan were implemented, for instance, the implementation of pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages, the prohibition of smoking in public places, including workplaces and public conveyance, the ban of sale of tobacco products to minors as well as the ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship”, he said.
However, the Minister expressed his disappointment that the figures still indicate a high prevalence of smoking among the Mauritian population. For instance, 40% of males and 3.7% of females aged 20 to 74 years are current smokers in Mauritius whereas for Rodrigues, there are 40% males and 4.3% females in the same age group. Moreover, 20.3% of school boys and 7.7% of school girls in Mauritius, and 16.3% boys and 8.4% girls in Rodrigues, all aged 13 to 15 years are current smokers.
It is estimated that more than 1,000 people dies yearly due to tobacco-related diseases. The good news, since the implementation of the action plan 2008-2012, is that the per capita cigarette sticks consumption in Mauritius has decreased from 1071.5 sticks in 2009 to 759.1 sticks in 2012.
For the minister, the vision of his Ministry is to create a tobacco-free society. “I am convinced that together, we can dream of a tobacco-free Mauritius. I believe that anti-tobacco education should start as early as possible in the life our children and we need to consolidate anti-tobacco programmes in educational institutions”, he stated.
In this regard, the new four-year strategic plan contains both demand-reduction and supply-reduction measures that are in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It has four main objectives, namely the prevention of tobacco use among young people and adults, the protection from exposure to second-hand smoke, the promotion of cessation among smokers, and the development of a comprehensive research framework for tobacco control.
“In the new Action Plan, we plan to implement two important articles, namely articles 9 and 10 in order to regulate the contents of tobacco products and regulation of tobacco product disclosures. In order to further reduce the influence of the tobacco industry, my Ministry is also planning to introduce plain packaging as is the case in Australia. In the same line, stronger measures will be taken to enforce cross-border advertising and tobacco advertising on the Internet”, the minister warned .
He also indicated that particular attention will be given to increase awareness of smokers on the harmful effects of tobacco in order to help them develop motivation to quit. The new Action Plan makes provision for the scaling up of the tobacco cessation clinics. The Ministry of Health is presently finalising a new set of pictorial health warnings which will be implemented soon, as such anti-tobacco messages on tobacco product packages are effective. Many countries, such as Togo, Iran, Brazil, Seychelles, have requested permission to use the Mauritius pictorial health warnings.
Mauritius has ratified the WHO FCTC in 2004. As party to this Convention, Mauritius has among other obligations, to develop, implement, and review comprehensive multi-sectorial national tobacco control strategies, plans and programmes in accordance with the Convention. The FCTC-compliant Tobacco Regulations (The Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Control) Regulations 2008) came into force in May 2009.
Worldwide, figures show that there are one billion smokers and nearly half of them die a premature death. Every year, 5.4 million people die due to tobacco-related diseases, whereas about 600,000 people die due to exposure to tobacco smoke.
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