The World Health Organization (WHO) states that half of tobacco users die due to an illness caused by it. Seven million people die directly from tobacco use yearly, and close to 22.3 per cent of the global population uses tobacco products. In response, governments worldwide have begun to clamp down on tobacco use.
In 2003, 182 countries adopted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to address the growing use of tobacco products. Some of the critical measures that governments adopt include reducing exposure to second-hand smoke, pictorial health warnings, high rates of taxes, and awareness campaigns that encourage quitting tobacco. A few countries have gone a step ahead. They have started implementing various degrees of bans on tobacco use.
On the occasion of this World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), let’s look at some cautionary regulations addressing the tobacco epidemic.
What countries across the world are doing to combat tobacco use?
On May 11, 2023, Portugal put forward legislation that seeks to ban smoking in most outdoor areas, including covered terraces. In addition, heated tobacco products used in vaping devices and e-cigarettes will now be on par with conventional tobacco. The country also seeks to restrict tobacco sales so that by 2040, it can raise a tobacco-free generation.
Last year, New Zealand passed a unique law that effectively outlaws smoking for the next generation. Although conventional cigarette consumption is likely to diminish, the country does not attempt to prohibit vaping. In fact, 8.3 per cent of adults in New Zealand have now taken to vaping.
In Australia, indoor smoking is outlawed in all states and territories, but the laws are less stringent in outdoor areas. In 2018, the country set up the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) to address the illegal tobacco trade. Unlike its neighbour, e-cigarettes, and vaping are banned in Australia.
The Middle East presents a dismal picture of tobacco use. Lebanon is the highest consumer of tobacco products in the region. The number of cigarettes smoked per person per year in Lebanon is 1,955, whereas in Kuwait and Libya are 1,849 and 1,764, respectively. In the UAE, the number is reportedly 438 cigarettes per annum per capita.
Although there is a growing awareness about the harmful effects of cigarettes and chewable tobacco, vaping seems to have become popular among youngsters, which needs to be addressed sooner than later.
Vaping devices are a Trojan horse
Despite cigarettes falling out of favour worldwide, there is a steady increase in the use of vaping devices. A vaping device is a handheld device that allows the user to breathe in a mist of heated nicotine.
Although the potential long-term effects of vaping are unknown, the 2019 E-cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) outbreak highlighted how harmful it could be, even in the short term. Multiple studies show that vaping can cause lung inflammation and injury and may have cardiovascular consequences.
On this World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), we must pause and divert our attention to vaping devices, which are becoming increasingly popular among the youth.