After a decade when only 15 percent of the world’s total population – 1 billion people at that time – were covered by anti-tobacco measures, the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that today that number is 4.7 billion or 63 percent of the global population.

This means more countries have since enacted at least one form of anti-tobacco measure, such as graphic health warnings, designation of smoke-free zones and advertising bans, according to the UN Health agency’s report on the global tobacco epidemic.

Putting in place one or more of these measures have since saved millions of people from tobacco-related health problems, WHO said.

“Working together, countries can prevent millions of people from dying each year from preventable tobacco-related illness, and save billions of dollars a year in avoidable health care expenditures and productivity losses,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

However, the WHO reminded that more work needs to be done because the reality remains that 1 in 10 deaths is caused by tobacco and that tobacco use it the leading preventable cause of death worldwide.

“Governments around the world must waste no time in incorporating all the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) into their national tobacco control programme policies,” said Dr Ghebreyesus, while urging governments to track down and weed out the illicit tobacco trade.

One strategy under the FCTC is the MPOWER measure, which promotes government action against tobacco use.

MPOWER stands for 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, and Raise tobacco taxes.

The WHO likewise reported that anti-tobacco legislations are in place in 55 countries, where a total of 1.5 billion people are exposed to tobacco, while in 78 countries have graphic warnings in cigarette packs to protect 3.5 billion people in those areas.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, the Executive Order on smoking ban which calls for smoke-free environments in the public, will finally take in effect on July 23.

Local government units (LGUs) are required to monitor compliance of the EO by forming task forces that will check public establishments and vehicles for violations.

Those who will ignore the law will be penalized with fines ranging from Php 500 to Php 10,000, depending on their offenses.

In a recent press conference, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the EO is undergoing the vetting process and comments from other agencies, but the EO will be fully implemented even without the IRR. MIMS

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