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National efforts to curb smoking ranks highly in Asia: Report

National efforts to combat smoking were lauded by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) in a report released recently.

The Asian Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2023, published by SEATCA, highlighted the Sultanate’s safeguards for its tobacco control policy against industry interference, rating it highly among 19 Asian countries.

The index rates nations on a score of 0 to 100, the higher the score, the worse the performance. Brunei scored 14, followed by Mongolia with a score of 38.

The report also said Brunei, Cambodia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, and Pakistan do not accept or endorse policy or legislative drafts by or in collaboration with the tobacco industry, nor do they invite the tobacco industry to sit at meetings where policies are decided.

There are no domestic tobacco producers or manufacturers in Brunei and Maldives. Brunei, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand have also enforced prohibitions on CSR activities by the tobacco sector within their borders.

Other nations have taken measures like prohibiting the publicising of donations from the tobacco industry. The report added, in Brunei and Laos, stringent regulations are in place to prevent engagement with the tobacco industry.

PHOTO: ENVATO

“These measures include a Prime Minister’s code of conduct in Brunei and tobacco control laws in Laos, which explicitly prohibit the acceptance of gifts, donations, sponsorships and participation in events organised or supported by the tobacco industry.”

Brunei, Maldives, Mongolia and Pakistan also did not have any reports of any interactions with the tobacco industry.

“This reflects a commitment by these counties to uphold the World Health Organization’s Article 5.3, which are guidelines to protect tobacco control from industry inteference,” according to the report.

It also “maintains a clear boundary between government officials and the tobacco industry.

“By doing so, they aim to reduce the potential for undue influence and ensure that public health remains at the forefront of tobacco control efforts. Unfortunately, most countries documented instances of unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry,” said the report.

“In Brunei, interactions with the tobacco industry are strictly regulated for transparency and conflict avoidance, with no such interactions occurring during this reporting period,” the report added.

“The commendable initiatives of countries such as Brunei, Philippines and Thailand stand as beacons of success in the region, and underscore the effectiveness of these preventive measures.” – Azlan Othman

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