Key elements of tobacco control legislation
Eliminating smoking in workplaces and public places protects workers and non-smokers from the hazards of exposure to tobacco smoke, discourages smoking initiation, reduces consumption and promotes cessation changing the social acceptability of smoking; Norway and Ireland have successfully adopted legislation banning smoking in all public places. Malta and Sweden are following suit. Other examples include several states/provinces and cities in many countries such as Canada, and the United States of America such as California and New York City.
Legislation in these countries and localities has created a comprehensive legal regime of standards and compliance and enforcement tools for the implementation of the bans. For example, a report on the implementation of the Irish smoke-free law showed that 94% of the inspected premises were compliant. The factors that account for the compliance include public education and support for the law, the use of enforcement tools such as hefty fines of 3000 Euros, prosecutions and other sanctions. The bans on public smoking in these countries have also being adopted alongside other complementary programmes of education and awareness and cessation schemes(9).
Tobacco product regulation
This set of provisions encompassing Articles 9, 10, and 11 is targeted at the regulation of the manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products. The scientific basis for the principles guiding the implementation of Articles 9 and 10 establishes the rationale for the principles guiding the implementation of Article 11. For this reason and in order to achieve the synergistic effect of these provisions, all three articles should be treated as one set of regulations. Regulatory authority for tobacco products should be delegated to a specialized agency within a ministry or department of government to address such matters as issuing and enforcing the regulations that require manufacturers to:
- test the contents and emissions of tobacco products on a periodic basis,
- disclose on a periodic basis and according to a specified format, not only the results of the tests based on a per mg of tar or nicotine, but also all other characteristics, such as, paper porosity, moisture content, etc.(10),
- and label and package tobacco products with large, clear health warnings and informational messages, using rotating messages developed by national authorities, and without the use of misleading health claims. Labelling and packaging regulation, especially in the form of bold pictorial rotating graphic illustrations covering 50% of the main display panels of cigarette packages as is the case in Thailand, Brazil and Canada are examples of successful regulation in this area.
Tobacco product regulation is an area where drafting needs to be in a way that loopholes are thwarted, unlike in the present when manufacturers are not required to disclose product characteristics, such as ventilation holes, thereby allowing manufacturers to evade regulation on allowable limits of tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide (TNCO) because the TNCO that should be part of the total smoke yield to be tested escapes via the ventilation holes before it gets tested. As part of the regulatory mandate, it is essential that the agency delegated with the task has enforcement authority.
For example, the agency should have the authority to issue penalties -- graduated penalties for late or incomplete disclosure where, in the first instance, could result in a warning, the second could result in a fine which should be high enough to be a deterrent against a reoccurrence, and the third could be the revocation of the license to manufacture the product. Of course, part of the regulation should also include provisions for an appeal for due process and an opportunity for an administrative law judge to review the case, especially in the case where a revocation of a license to manufacture is the penalty.
A similar kind of graduated penalty should be applied to those whose disclosed data for the testing results do not fall within a pre-defined confidence interval of a verification test done by either a government laboratory or an independent laboratory. Where there is a consistent pattern of erroneous disclosure, more severe penalties should be applied.
(9) Irish Report on compliance with the smoke-free law. (10) For a complete list of tobacco product characteristics that should be disclosed, see WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) Recommendation 1 – Guiding Principles for the Development of Tobacco Product Research and Testing Capacity and Proposed Protocols for the Initiation of Tobacco Product Testing.