The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched new guidance on the role tobacco product regulation can play to reduce tobacco demand, save lives and raise revenues for health services to treat tobacco-related disease, in the context of comprehensive tobacco control.
A new guide, “Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity”, and a collection of country approaches to regulation of menthol, presented in the publication titled “Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products – Menthol in tobacco products” have been launched at the 2018 World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, South Africa.
Many countries have developed advanced policies to reduce the demand for tobacco, which kills over 7 million people annually, but governments can do much more to implement regulations to control tobacco use, especially by exploiting tobacco product regulation.
Dr. Douglas Bettcher, WHO’s Director of the Department for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), noted that tobacco product regulation was an under-utilized tool yet it has a critical role to play in reducing tobacco use.
“The tobacco industry has enjoyed years of little or no regulation, mainly due to the complexity of tobacco product regulation and lack of appropriate guidance in this area. These new tools provide a useful resource to countries to either introduce or improve existing tobacco product regulation provisions and end the tobacco industry ‘reign’,” said Dr. Douglas Bettcher.
According to Dr. Bettcher, only a handful of countries currently regulate the contents, design features, and emissions of tobacco products, which in turn means that tobacco products are one of the few openly available consumer products that are virtually unregulated in terms of contents, design features and emissions.
Most countries hesitate to implement policies, due in part to the highly technical nature of such policy interventions and the difficulties in translating science into regulation, explains Dr. Vinayak Prasad, who leads WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.
“Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity” provides practical, stepwise approaches to implementing tobacco testing. Such guidance is relevant to a wide range of countries in various settings, including those with inadequate resources to establish a testing facility.
This laboratory guide is a useful resource for countries, and provides regulators and policymakers with comprehensible information on how to test tobacco products, what products to test, and how to use testing data in a meaningful way to support regulation.
Further, it provides a step-by-step guide to developing a testing laboratory, using an existing internal laboratory, contracting an external laboratory, and making use of the available support mechanisms both within WHO and externally.
This calls for country prioritization and commitment of resources to tobacco product regulation, as the guide equips regulators with the necessary tools to strengthen tobacco regulation capacity.