WHO highlights high tobacco use in Southeast Asia, calls for crackdown on illicit trade

As per the WHO global report, tobacco use prevalence among adult men decreased from 68.9% to 43.7%, and among adult women, it decreased from 33.5% to 9.4% between 2000 and 2022 in the region.
WHO says Southeast Asia Region has the highest average prevalence of tobacco use among adults
WHO says Southeast Asia Region has the highest average prevalence of tobacco use among adults

NEW DELHI: Stressing that the Southeast Asia Region has the highest average prevalence of tobacco use among adults, the WHO on Tuesday called on the 11 member countries, including India, to take effective steps to track, trace, and eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products and control unrecorded alcohol.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also cautioned that all forms of tobacco and alcohol, legal or illegal, are harmful to health.

Despite the progress recorded in the fifth edition of the WHO global report on trends in the prevalence of tobacco use 2000–2030, tobacco prevalence is still high.

As per the WHO global report, tobacco use prevalence among adult men decreased from 68.9% to 43.7%, and among adult women, it decreased from 33.5% to 9.4% between 2000 and 2022 in the region.

However, the region accounts for 280 million smokeless tobacco users, nearly 77% of the global total, and 11 million adolescent tobacco users, 30% of the worldwide total.

“Effective control of illicit tobacco trade and unrecorded alcohol is a challenging and daunting task, but now is the time to make our decisions and choose the best way forward prudently. As a first step, all our remaining Member States should become Parties to the WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products,” said Saima Wazed, Regional Director of the South-East Asia Region (SEARO).

So far, in the region, India and Sri Lanka are parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products.

The WHO SEARO head called on countries in the region to devote optimal resources to developing, implementing, and sustaining effective ‘track and trace’ mechanisms for tobacco products.

She pointed out that progress in combating illicit trade has been slow in the region, with appropriate policies and tools either not in place or not optimally implemented.

Experience from many countries shows illicit trade can be successfully addressed, even when tobacco taxes and prices are raised. She added that this results in increased tax revenues while simultaneously reducing tobacco use.

“It is essential to compile existing and generate new regional evidence to enable policymakers to make better-informed and more effective policy decisions to monitor and combat illicit tobacco trade and unrecorded alcohol,” she said at the regional workshop, which will be exploring integrating quit lines for tobacco, alcohol, and substance use, besides global best practices to monitor and combat illicit tobacco trade and unrecorded alcohol consumption.

Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, over 20 different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Excessive alcohol consumption has several negative health consequences.

It is a risk factor for mental disorders, communicable and noncommunicable diseases, premature mortality, injury, and domestic violence.

In addition to the valuable lives lost, both tobacco and alcohol have substantial economic and societal costs.

An estimated 25% of global alcohol consumption is unrecorded.

This is usually of a lower price and appeals to consumers from low socioeconomic status and people with underlying alcohol use disorders. It is often irregularly labelled, thus frequently containing unknown ethanol percentages and potentially toxic compounds. It is a complex interplay of these factors which makes unrecorded alcohol potentially more harmful than regulated alcohol, she said.

Unrecorded alcohol consumption is associated with disproportionate harm that goes beyond toxicity. The online sale of unrecorded alcohol, which circumvents alcohol availability regulations, is an emerging challenge, she further said.

She said priority should be given to the effective implementation of all WHO FCTC measures at the country level.

"This must be done to address both supply-side and demand-side issues about all forms of tobacco use, to ensure a reduction in the prevalence of tobacco consumption across our region,” the Regional Director said.

Representatives of the customs, excise, tax and health departments from Member States of WHO Southeast Asia region, the World Bank, the World Customs Organization, global and regional experts in the illicit tobacco trade, and unrecorded alcohol and tobacco quit lines attended the workshop.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com