Standardized packaging for tobacco products major health milestone


Smoking and consumption of tobacco products kill more than 60,000 people every year in Myanmar. Tobacco products, including cigarettes, can cause at least 16 different cancers of the body, including lung cancer, cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, liver, cervix, stomach, colon, and rectum.
According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2014, the prevalence of risk factors for contracting non-communicable diseases was one for 94 per cent of the people and three to five for about 19.6 per cent of the people.
Though we have been trying our best to reduce tobacco use for several years, the number of smokers and tobacco-related diseases are on the rise in Myanmar. There has been an economic cost of smoking — Myanmar has lost about 3.3 per cent of its GDP due to consumption of tobacco products.
If Myanmar fails to control smoking and consumption of tobacco products, the country will face a huge public health problem in five years and that could lead to losses in all sectors, including health and economy.
Not only has the figure for tobacco use risen steadily since, it has also been predicted that cancer deaths will increase by over two-thirds by 2030.
Standardized packaging is one strategy that is being used to reduce and end the manufacture, trade, and sale of cigarettes and tobacco. It has been found effective in reducing consumption of tobacco products among youths in other countries. Non-smokers and kids are less likely to use cigarettes or tobacco products with the implementation of standardized packaging. Therefore, it should be implemented as soon as possible in Myanmar, in accordance with the suggestions made by the Attorney General’s Office.
To implement standard packaging, an appropriate strategy and work processes need to be drawn up, and sector-wise duties and responsibilities need to be assigned to ministerial departments and organizations.
That would be a major tobacco control milestone in Myanmar. Standardized packaging with enlarged and graphic health warnings reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products and ensures consumers are not misled on the many harmful effects of tobacco.
Standardized packaging includes a graphic picture of tobacco’s ill effects on the body and a logo-free brand name written in plain font. The introduction of standardized (or ‘plain’) packaging was recommended by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) guidelines.
This recommendation was based on evidence around tobacco promotion in general and studies which examined the impact of changes in packaging on knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior.
Standardized packaging would a significant step towards helping Myanmar citizens adopt a smoke-free lifestyle.

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