The importance of legislation
Legislation is at the heart of an effective tobacco control program. Any comprehensive tobacco control program requires the drafting and adoption of legislation and the introduction of regulations. A society’s laws are the most solemn and formal articulation of its values; they recognize, reinforce and give permanence to a society’s norms. When a government imposes a comprehensive ban on smoking in all public places, for example, it not only protects the public in general, but also declares the will of the society for a smoke free environment.
Further, legislation serves to institutionalize a tobacco control program. In contrast to the ad hoc and intermittent initiatives that might be undertaken by a health ministry or other government office in the absence of legislation a program grounded in comprehensive legislation (1) helps to ensure programmatic continuity as officials, governments and government priorities change over time. With comprehensive approaches to tobacco control, legislation helps to integrate the diverse components of a multifaceted program (2). Importantly, it typically establishes a national focal point for activities relating to tobacco control and mobilizes public resources and institutions in support of the program. It may be that for political and other reasons, some countries prefer enactment of separate legislative instruments covering various aspects of tobacco control. Other countries may prefer to adopt laws in the form of binding rules, resolutions, regulations or orders pursuant to an existing legal authority vested in an agency as is the case with the National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance (ANVISA) in Brazil(3). It may also be that some countries choose to adopt policy instruments without legal force. However, examples of tobacco control programs grounded in a comprehensive legislation in Norway, South Africa, Brazil, India, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Thailand and New Zealand show the importance countries attach to legislation as the core tool for tobacco control (4).
(1)Blanke & Costa E Silva, Tobacco Control Legislation: An introductory Guide, WHO 2004, at page 49
(3) The Resolutions and Rules passed by ANVISA are legally binding rules, having the force and quality of law and with sanctions attached for their violation. Article 7 of Law 9.782 endows ANVISA with a broad legislative authority to pass health legislation include that of tobacco control.
(4) Article 4 of the WHO FCTC requires adoption of comprehensive strategies for tobacco control.