The importance of legislation
Comprehensive tobacco control measures
Comprehensive tobacco control measures require steps to restrict the conduct of tobacco companies and other private and public businesses. Private businesses include places of employment, wholesalers and retailers of tobacco products etc. For example, a tobacco control programme may seek to regulate workers’ health through a ban on smoking in public places and workplaces. Such steps can be taken only through legislation. Only through legislation can a government mobilize the resources necessary to counteract tobacco manufacturers and sellers, including tobacco taxes and duties, as well as requirements that manufacturers display government-approved warning messages on tobacco packets. However, there are challenges to the development of legislation for tobacco control. These include:
- Lack of awareness by the public on health and other hazards posed by tobacco;
- Limited capacity, expertise, commitment and funding for implementation of tobacco control programmes and strategies including legislative implementation;
- Powerful opponents --- the tobacco industry has continued to undermine tobacco control legislation and other policies around the world; and,
- Uncertain political will. Political will for tobacco control can be uncertain depending on the changing political landscape in each country.
Fortunately, recent developments have favoured the adoption of effective legislation for tobacco control, adapted to each country’s particular social, cultural and political circumstances:
- Overwhelming scientific evidence has firmly documented the effects of tobacco use and exposure on health;
- Abundant research has documented the effectiveness of recommended tobacco control legislative strategies;
- Compelling research by the World Bank, the World Health Organization and academic experts has refuted economic arguments against tax increases and other legislative measures;
- Litigation has exposed the efforts of multinational tobacco companies to conceal the truth about tobacco use and to undermine public health efforts around the world;
- Countries in every region of the world have gained hard-won experiences with tobacco control legislation, allowing others to advance quickly based on those experiences;
- Global public awareness of the health effects of tobacco use and the conduct of tobacco companies has increased sharply in recent years;
- Spurred partly by the negotiations of the WHO FCTC, nongovernmental organizations from many countries and in a worldwide network have mobilized around support for strong legislative proposals;
- The WHO FCTC negotiations have raised international understanding of tobacco control and galvanized the political will for action in many countries.
Together, these developments offer support for the enactment of comprehensive national legislation, even in countries with no history of stringent tobacco control.