A paper published in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal reviews the current state of tobacco use, governance and national commitment for control, and current intervention frameworks in place to reduce the use of tobacco among the populations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and Yemen. It further reviews structured policy-oriented interventions (in line with the MPOWER package of 6 evidence-based tobacco control measures) that represent government actions to strengthen, implement and manage tobacco control programmes and to address the growing epidemic of tobacco use.
The findings of the review show that tobacco control in the GCC countries has witnessed real progress over the past decades. These are still early days but they indicate steps in the right direction. Future investment in implementation and enforcement of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, production of robust tobacco control legislation and the establishment of universally available tobacco cessation services are essential to sustain and strengthen tobacco control in the GCC region.
Increased taxation on tobacco products can be an effective method of reducing tobacco use. In a study published in the Scandinavian Journal Public Health, Filippos Filippidis and myself, along with colleagues from Harvard University, assessed support for increased taxation on tobacco products and other tobacco control measures among people aged ≥15 years in 27 European Union (EU) during the period 2009-2012.
We obtained nationally representative data from the 2009 (n=26,788) and 2012 (n=26,751) cross-sectional Eurobarometer surveys. Estimates were compared using chi-square statistics. The effect of the relative change in gross domestic product (GDP) on the change in support for increased taxation during 2009-2012 was calculated using the Pearson correlation coefficient and linear regression models.
We found that between 2009 and 2012, support for increased taxes on tobacco products declined (56.1% to 53.2%. However, support for other tobacco control measures increased significantly. After adjusting for baseline GDP per capita (2009), a 10% increase in GDP per capita was associated with 4.5% increase in support of tax increases. There was a strong correlation between the change in GDP and support for increased taxes (correlation coefficient 0.64). Also, after adjusting for baseline GDP, support for higher taxes on tobacco increased by 7.0% for every 10% increase in GDP between 2009 and 2012.
We concluded that population support for tax increases declined in the EU between 2009 and 2012, especially in countries with declines in GCP. Nonetheless, public support for other tobacco control measures remains high, thus indicating a viable environment for the use of more comprehensive tobacco control policies.
Professor Christopher Millett and Dr Anthony Laverty from the Public Health Policy Unit at Imperial College London contributed to a ground-breaking WHO report which provides an analysis of the current health, social and economic costs and impacts of tobacco use and policies in China. The report highlights the impact of tobacco use on development, with special emphasis on poverty and inequality and the tremendous burden tobacco represents for the poorest and most vulnerable.
China is the epicentre of this epidemic, and thus lies at the heart of global efforts to stop it. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco. A staggering 44% of the world’s cigarettes are smoked in China. One million people die of tobacco-related diseases in China every year, many of them in the prime of their productive years.
The report can be viewed on the WHO Website.