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Tobacco Control Workshop Mulls Sustainable Funding

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Representatives from the media, Hygiene and Health Promotion Department, Mass Media Department, World Health Organisation in Laos met last week to discuss ways to sustain the Tobacco Control Fund.

The workshop on Friday, aimed to encourage the media to publicise the benefits of the Tobacco Control Fund for national development since it was established in 2013.

Deputy Director General of the Mass Media Organisation, Mr. Bounhap Souligno, said that over many years various tobacco control articles had been part of campaigns through media organisations. However, these were not carried out continuously due to a shortage of funding.

“If the funding is sustainable many organisations and communities will benefit,” he said.

If funding could be consistently raised from a tax on tobacco sales it would not only help the government to have sufficient and sustainable funding, but also cause the retail price of cigarettes to increase. This in turn should reduce the rate of smokers in society, especially stopping young people who wanted to try lighting up.

Head of the Health Promotion Division of the Ministry of Health, Dr Khatthanaphone Phandouangsy, said the fund would reduce the number of people suffering from chronic diseases caused by smoking, cut expenditure for medical treatment for smoking-related illness and increase the age longevity of the population.

Similar methods have already been implemented successfully in many countries such as Australia, Canada, Portugal, United States, Finland, South Korea, Nepal, Ireland, New Zealand, Peru and Ecuador, also in Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Malaysia. For Indonesia, a tax is collected in the form of the Fund for Local Development with Cambodian employing a similar fund.

“If funding is sustainable andsufficientitwouldbeaway to implement Article 45, 46 and 47 of the Law on Tobacco Control. In addition, various health promotion activities would be implemented,” Dr Khatthanaphone said.

In addition, all media organisations have the right to use the funding to campaign against the harmful impacts of smoking as well as other disease control, such as dengue fever.

While some training about managing such a fund has been implemented, ongoing activities have remained limited, mostly driven by support from international organisations. However, it is not enough compared to the task at hand.

“As we know, tobacco is a legal product, but it is harmful to the health of smokers and second-hand smokers. I hope that media personnel will continue to campaign on the dangers of tobacco as much as possible,” she said, adding that if people were healthy they could earn money to improve their circumstances for the betterment of the nation.

According to statistics from the WHO, there are an estimated 1.3 billion smokers worldwide, of whom 70 percentliveinlesser-developed countries and 250 million are female. The statistics also state that about 6 million people around the world die every year caused by smoking. This included 13 people who died every day in Laos.

Source: Vientiane Times