Best Practices in Tobacco Control Laws Enforcement: Case Study from South-East Asia
Cross country collaboration in adapting best practices for effective implementation of Tobacco control initiatives
Tobacco kills more than 8 million peopled every year globally. The South-East Asia Region has high prevalence of tobacco use, for both smoking and smokeless tobacco. All the countries except one are Parties to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and are also implementing the WHO MPOWER Package and Best Buy Practices to reduce the demand of tobacco at the country level. Tobacco is a major risk factor for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and is the most common preventable cause of death. Effective implementation and enforcement of tobacco control laws are therefore crucial for the overall tobacco control.
Towards a Solution
The WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO) initiated the practice of learning from regional best practices. In this regard, partnerships and networking with WHO, national governments and enforcement bodies were used as platforms to exchange knowledge and experiences. WHO SEARO and the Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO) collaborated in organizing a study tour of enforcement officials from Sri Lanka to Singapore to learn about effective implementation of tobacco control policies and laws at the country level. Singapore was identified as the country has been highly effective in enforcing strong tobacco control laws. A study tour of Public Health Inspectors, who are the enforcement officials for tobacco control law in Sri Lanka, was arranged to look at the best practices in law enforcement in Singapore.
In line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 3a (Strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate), the objectives of the study tour were:
- To learn about Singapore’s National Tobacco Control Programme, key agencies, their roles and functions in enforcing tobacco control laws and regulations (particularly smoke-free places, sale and distribution, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans, content regulation, retailer licensing, excise tax collection, illicit trade).
- To learn first-hand how investigations, surveillance and enforcement are conducted.
- To develop a report consolidating findings and recommendations for a future enforcement strategy.
The study tour provided a platform to learn from best practices of one country and an inter-regional experience. The enforcement officials from Sri Lanka discussed and learned how Singapore had achieved effective tobacco control and enforcement mechanisms. The process was participatory, and deliberations were held with the Health Promotion Board, Singapore, the Health Sciences Authority, the National Environment Agency, the Singapore Customs, the FCTC 2030 team and public health inspectors from Sri Lanka. Field visits and hands-on experiences were also part of the study tour.
The study tour provided an innovative opportunity to learn from inter-regional experiences for tobacco control. The following learning objectives were met:
- An overview of Singapore’s National Tobacco Control Programme, it’s structure, activities and campaigns (e.g. media campaigns, prevention programmes, cessation/treatment programmes).
- An understanding of the Tobacco Regulation Branch and the Health Sciences Authority’s roles and functions – enforcement of regulations on underage smoking, Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship (TAPS) ban, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)/Vapes, content regulation and testing, licensing of retailers;
- First-hand observations on how enforcement of tobacco control regulations (TAPS, sale, distribution) is conducted on the ground;
- An understanding of the smoke-free regulations, how enforcement is conducted on the ground, as well as enforcement challenges and strategies to counter them;
- An understanding of excise collection and enforcement of illicit trade, as well as enforcement challenges and strategies to counter them.
The tour was a step forward towards the acceleration of WHO FCTC implementation in Sri Lanka in line with SDG 3a. The Singapore best practice is replicable and can be undertaken in other countries in both SEAR and WPR. The commitment and involvement of the local authorities and coordination of participating agencies from various sectors are crucial to ensure replicability. There were extensive deliberations with the members of the study tour by different bodies of the Singapore Government including the Health Promotion Board, the Health Sciences Authority, the National Environment Agency and Singapore Customs.
The activity was result of close collaboration and coordination among National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Sri Lanka, WHO at the regional (SEARO and WPRO) and country level (Sri Lanka), FCTC Secretariat and Government of Singapore.
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