Source: Vientiane Times
The government will soon require tobacco companies to display graphic health warnings on cigarette packets in the hope of reducing the number of deaths from smoking-related illnesses.
Tobacco companies will need to display these warnings relaying information on the dangers of smoking by October of this year.
Laos is still finding it difficult to implement health and legal policies to further reduce smoking in the country due to the influence of the tobacco industry, according to officials.
Director General of the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department under the Ministry of Health, Dr Phath Keungsaneth, spoke to the media on Wednesday at a meeting to build understanding of Articles 37 and 38 of the Law on Tobacco Control.
The graphic health warning on cigarette packets required described in Article 37 is very important for communicating information to people who cannot read. They can now see and understand some of the dangers of smoking, he said.
He added that new smoke-free areas will also have No Smoking signs displayed, in line with Article 38.
Smoke-free areas have been updated to include airports, bars and pubs, coffee shops, government offices, health venues, hotels, restaurants, religious sites, public transport, shopping malls, universities, and workplaces.
Before the current law, government offices and private companies had designated smoking zones for smokers but this will change, Dr Phath suggests.
“We are proud to see a decrease in the smoking rate, which we attribute to an effective tobacco control programme and the Law on Tobacco Control in Laos,” he said.
Tobacco control is important for non-communicable disease prevention and health promotion and the government considers it a top priority along with communicable disease control, he added.
According to the ministry, up until recently almost 40 percent of the Lao population smoked but today surveys show that number to be lower at 29 percent.
Dr Phath says this decrease indicates that more Lao people are starting to understand the dangers of tobacco.
The WHO estimates that tobacco kills about six million people each year and causes more than half a trillion dollars of economic damage globally.
It is estimated that tobacco could kill as many as one billion people this century if the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is not implemented immediately.