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The city of Bogor, Indonesia, won a court case upholding its ban on the display of tobacco products at point-of-sale on 24 February. In 2017, Bogor became the first Indonesian city to implement a point-of-sale tobacco display ban as part of its smokefree law.

The case against the ban was raised by three retailers, who claimed that it was unreasonable because cigarettes are legal, and contribute to excise taxes and to the success of local businesses.

Overwhelming support was expressed by Bogor residents and civil society members across Indonesia in favour of maintaining Bogor’s tobacco control policies, which serve to protect people from the harms of tobacco and to prevent young people from starting smoking. The Union’s grantee, the Muhammadiyah Student Association, rallied young people in Bogor to send 1000 letters in support of the city’s smokefree law to the Mayor.

Technical and legal support to contest the lawsuit was provided by The Union and other organisations including RAYA Indonesia, No Tobacco Community (NOTC) and the Ministry of Health.

Mayor Bima Arya of Bogor welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban on the display of tobacco products at point-of-sale. He said: “Data shows that smoking is a major contributor to stunting in children and undernourishment, as families are spending more money on cigarettes than on nutritious food. Bogor City’s smokefree policies help our community.”

“Displaying tobacco products at point-of-sale is one of the primary channels for tobacco companies to market their products, especially to children and young people,” said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Deputy Regional Director for Asia Pacific at The Union. “The Supreme Court verdict to uphold the ban is a huge public health win for tobacco control, as it will give confidence to all subnational leaders across the Asia Pacific region to implement lifesaving policies like this without fear of being targeted by similar lawsuits.”

 

STOP, a global tobacco industry watchdog of which The Union is a partner, published an in-depth analysis revealing the scale of Philip Morris International (PMI)’s current campaign to deceive the public, infiltrate health policy and profit from an epidemic.

The report, Addiction at Any Cost: Philip Morris International Uncovered, presents evidence that PMI is addicting new users to its IQOS product (which heats tobacco as opposed to burning it) because its cigarette business is under threat – rather than solely because it wants smokers to quit as the company claims.

PMI has spent millions of dollars telling the public that it wants to achieve a “smoke-free world” – yet the new STOP report highlights evidence that PMI continues to invest in cigarettes, a deadly business that kills eight million people every year.

In 2019, the same year that it launched its “Unsmoke” campaign, PMI made more than 700 billion cigarettes, launched a new brand of cigarettes in Indonesia and announced a deal with a local company in Uzbekistan to start producing Marlboro cigarettes.

Since its publication on 20 February, STOP’s report has gained significant media attention globally and has been featured in Global Health Now, Politico Pulse, Telegraph (India) and BioSpectrum, among others. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism also used the research in its recent exposé on PMI in Dispatches (UK).

“Attempting to improve its public image is a tactic we have seen used by the industry before when its profits come under threat,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “STOP’s report will play an important part in making sure that the public is informed about the true motives behind PMI’s ’smoke-free world’.”

Read the full report here.

Visit STOP’s website at exposetobacco.org to access tools and resources including the latest analyses, reports, and information on the industry’s tactics.

About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)

STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products) is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose tobacco industry strategies and tactics to undermine public health. STOP is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and comprised of a partnership between the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control and Vital Strategies.

 

The Union lauds the Armenian Parliament which voted, on 11 February, in favor of a comprehensive tobacco control law. Among its most important measures, the law enacts a ban on indoor smoking in all public places (cafes and restaurants), workplaces, and public transport; it also places a total ban on tobacco product advertisements, sponsorship and promotion; and mandates plain packaging. Perhaps most critically, the law imposes strict fines for violations.

Armenia has been an unfortunate anomaly in the South Caucasus region, failing to garner significant political support for and enforcement of tobacco control, even when neighbouring countries were effective in both.  A law in 2005, for example, banned tobacco in hospitals, schools, and cultural institutions but it—along with additional restrictions in 2006—proved ineffectual in the absence of specific legal sanctions for compliance violations. The government also tried to regulate tobacco in 2017 but the law never went into force.

“This new law is critically important,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “We have long been deeply concerned about Armenia’s tobacco epidemic and believe this new legislation can help create a much-needed sea change.”

Over 50 percent of Armenian men presently smoke regularly, and the country has the second highest number of male smokers in the World Health Organization European region. Not surprisingly, Armenia has a high incidence of lung cancer and has, according to Health Minister Arsen Torosyan, been not inaccurately referred to as an “ashtray.”

Torosyan, who became Health Minister in 2018, spearheaded the law, bravely criticising those who failed to endorse it. It passed the National Assembly in December 2019, with a vote of 83 to 15. At the February parliamentary debates, Torosyan’s deputy, Dr. Lena Nanushyan, reiterated the law’s urgency, noting, “Cigarette smoking is responsible for 10 percent of annual deaths in Armenia and this is a significant number.”

The indoor smoking ban will take effect in March 2022. Violations will incur fines ranging from 50,000 drams (US $105) to 200,000 drams (US $418).

During the period leading to implementation, The Union will continue to support the Ministry of Health and other partners who will undoubtedly experience significant opposition and pushback from the tobacco industry.

“History has shown us that there is no time to be complacent,” cautioned Dr. Gan Quan. “Armenia has taken an important step, but tobacco control advocates must remain vigilant, monitoring corporate interference that could derail progress.”

 

Myanmar’s capital city, Nay Pyi Taw, has issued a decree extending the requirements specified by the country’s national tobacco control law and making smokefree legislation more comprehensive in the Nay Pyi Taw region. Smoking is now prohibited in hospitals, clinics, workplaces, children’s playgrounds, education facilities and commercial accommodation.

Under Myanmar’s national Control of Smoking and Consumption of Tobacco Products law, restaurants are required to have designated smoking areas, but other public places, such as tea shops and establishments known as “cold drinks shops”, aren't mentioned at all in the law.

This city level decree, issued by the Nay Pyi Taw Development Committee (NPTDC), is the first of its kind in Myanmar, and is intended to close gaps like these in the national law. Under the decree, all air-conditioned restaurants, tea shops and cold drinks shops must be smokefree, and non-air-conditioned (partially open air) restaurants, tea shops and cold drinks shops can have designated smoking areas, but these must be outside.

Myanmar has a high overall smoking rate of 26.1 percent, with 43.8 percent of adult men and 8.4 percent of adult women who smoke. The Mayor of Nay Pyi Taw said that he hopes that this new decree will protect the city’s one million citizens from tobacco smoke, and will increase public awareness of the dangers of smoking.

An event was held to promote the decree, which was attended by 550 participants including high-level national and subnational government officials, academics and representatives from civil society and the media. At the event, the Minister of Health and Sports praised Nay Pyi Taw’s commitment to curbing the tobacco epidemic: “Tobacco use causes chronic diseases which not only burden the patient but also the family, community and country.” He urged other cities in Myanmar to follow the example set by Nay Pyi Taw.

It is hoped that the collaboration between NPTDC and the Ministry of Health and Sports will lead to stronger enforcement of tobacco control laws in the region. “The Union congratulates Nay Pyi Taw for its commitment to tobacco control,” said Dr Tara Sing Bam, Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific region at The Union. “Subnational leadership plays a key role to fulfil the implementation gaps in tobacco control, and can make each sector accountable to identify local solutions to the local problems.”

The Union provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Health and Sports and Nay Pyi Taw government for tobacco control. Nay Pyi Taw is a member of the Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control and Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention (APCAT), and representatives from Nay Pyi Taw declared their commitment to advance tobacco control in their city at the 4th APCAT Summit in 2019.

 

The Union congratulates the Government of Mexico for issuing a presidential decree on 19 February 2020 prohibiting the import of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) into the country. The decree sends a clear message that public health should be protected at the highest level, above the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.

Although e-cigarettes have been banned in Mexico since May 2008, this decree puts health and customs regulations in alignment, providing legal certainty on the issue.

The Federal Commission against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), the National Commission against Addictions (CONADIC) and the Ministry of Health declared in a joint public statement that Mexican health authorities do not endorse e-cigarettes or HTPs as lower risk alternatives to smoking or as an effective means to quit smoking – in fact evidence shows that many users of new tobacco products also smoke traditional cigarettes.

“This is a timely measure by the Government of Mexico,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “The decree will prevent the tobacco and e-cigarette industry from expanding in the country and addicting more people to nicotine.”

“The Union hopes to see enforcement bodies such as COFEPRIS taking swift action against violations of both the new decree and the existing national ban on e-cigarettes,” said Gustavo Sonora, Regional Director for Latin America at The Union. “It will be important to ensure that illicit sales of e-cigarettes and HTPs are prevented, advertisements removed, and use of the products in public places stopped.”

Tobacco control efforts in Mexico have shown positive results, with the national smoking rate declining from 28 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2017. The Union has provided technical assistance to further tobacco control policies in Mexico since 2006, supporting partners to strengthen tobacco policy enforcement and evaluation and to present scientific evidence which promotes tobacco control in each of Mexico’s 32 provinces.

With over 16 million Mexican people still using tobacco as of 2017, The Union will continue to provide support to partners and the Government of Mexico to further implement the policies set out in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to reduce the preventable diseases and early death caused by tobacco.

This article is also available in Spanish/Este artículo también está disponible en español.

 

Nominations are now being received for The Union Awards, to be presented at the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health in Seville, Spain.

The awards honour outstanding contributions to lung health and are an important and valued way to recognise the work being conducted across the globe. In Seville we will acknowledge and reward a broad spectrum of exceptional candidates, including health workers, young researchers, lifetime achievers, Union members, and community organisations. Depending on the award, the winners may receive a cash prize and/or a full fellowship/complimentary registration to attend the Union World Conference.

The nomination process is easy, with each participant being able to make multiple nominations for any of the awards below, with the exception of the Union Medal and Honorary Membership, which are for Union members only. Self-nomination is not permitted in any of the categories. More details about each of the awards can be found on The Union website by clicking on the links below or on the nominations page.

Nominations are now open for the following prizes:

The Union Young Investigator Prize: Acknowledges a researcher for work in lung health published in the past five years, when aged 35 years or younger.

The Union Scientific Prize: Acknowledges researchers at any stage of their career for work in lung health published in the past five years.

The Karel Styblo Public Health Prize: Acknowledges a health worker or a community organisation for contributions to tuberculosis (TB) control over a period of ten years or more.

The Stephen Lawn TB-HIV Research Leadership Prize: Acknowledges young researchers conducting promising work focused on reducing the disease burden of TB and HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The Princess Chichibu Global Memorial TB Award: Recognises outstanding contributions to global TB control. Awarded by the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association (JATA). For this award, the call for nominations is for 2021.

The Union Medal– for members only: Awarded to members who have made an outstanding contribution to the control of TB or lung health by their scientific work and/or actions in the field.

Honorary Member– for members only: Granted to a person who has become distinguished through active participation in The Union's activities and the fulfilment of its goals.

The awards will be presented at the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health to be held from 21-24 October 2020 in Seville, Spain.

Nominations will close on 31 March 2020.

Any queries should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the first four scientific prizes in the list above, and to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for The Union Medal, Honorary Member and Princess Chichibu Award.

 

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