Tobacco regulations

Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It is mostly consumed by smoking and chewing. Smoking is practiced by 1.22 billion people and men are more likely to smoke than women. In developed countries the proportion of women who smoke is a bit lower than that of men but in developing countries very few women smoke as smoking cigarettes is viewed as a male habit. Tobacco affects the heart and lungs and in 2004 WHO reported that 5.4 million deaths were caused by tobacco use. Due to the impact that tobacco has on people’s health, many countries strive to impose tobacco regulations so as to help people reduce the amount of tobacco they use and live a healthy lifestyle. Many countries tend to practice the same tobacco regulations and the following are some of the most practised tobacco regulations that exist around the world.

Tobacco advertising

One of the tobacco regulations imposed in many countries is the ban on tobacco advertisements. Within the European Union tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television has been banned since 1991. In Ireland it is illegal to advertise tobacco on radio, television and billboards. The U.S.A also limits tobacco advertising that could attract young smokers. In South Africa promotion of tobacco products including sponsorship and free distribution of tobacco products is banned. This method has not been quite effective as tobacco companies have managed to find new tactics of advertising by sponsoring certain sports events. During the events they get to publicize their brands to the public and still catch people’s attention on their products. Furthermore tobacco companies use social networks to market their products a good example being facebook where people can become fans of some of the tobacco brands.

Tobacco packaging     

France requires all cigarettes packages to have a list of the percentages of tobacco present in the product on the sides of all packages. This is one way of alerting tobacco users of the amount of tobacco they are about to ingest. In the UK cigarettes packs sold are required to include health warnings covering 30% of the front surface and 40% of the back. In the U.S.A tobacco companies are required to have warning labels on the cigarette packages that covers 50% of the front and rear of each pack with the word ‘warning’ in capital letters.

Picture warnings

Since October 2010 picture warnings have been required on all tobacco products in the UK and the government believes this will create more awareness among the public on the effects tobacco has on people’s health. Pictures in the cigarette packages show signs of throat cancer and rotting teeth. Australia will soon be practising the same thing as a new law is about to be passed where tobacco companies will be forced to strip all logos from their cigarette packages and replace them with graphic images such as cancer-riddled mouths and sickly children. Furthermore brand names will be printed in a small, uniform font and packets will have a dull olive green colour which the government believes consumers will hate. These are good examples of the picture warnings on cigarette packages.

Prohibition to smoke in enclosed public spaces

Many countries prohibit people to smoke in enclosed public places and workplaces with a few exemptions such as guest bedrooms in hotels and certain rooms in care homes and prisons. Other public places that people could smoke include bus shelters, phone boxes, nursing homes and psychiatric wards. Penalties that a person can have for not following these regulations in the UK include a fixed penalty notice of £50 if a person is found smoking in smoke free premises or work vehicles. If a person should be convicted at court then a penalty of £200 will be imposed to the person. People could also be given a penalty of up to £200 if they fail to display no smoking signs.

Taxation of tobacco product

Some countries inflict high taxes on tobacco products as a way to discourage people from buying and consuming a lot of tobacco. This happens in most of the high income countries for example in the UK 78% of the cigarette price is a proportion of tax. For Denmark it is 84%, France 75% and Norway it is 78%. Tobacco taxation does not happen everywhere. There are some countries where tobacco products are not taxed at all and this is mostly in low income countries. Afghanistan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Mali are some of the countries that do not tax their tobacco products.

Other minor tobacco regulations

The UK prohibits free distribution of tobacco products. An individual cannot give any product away to the public for the purpose of promoting a tobacco product. Furthermore factories that manufacture tobacco are required to register themselves in the UK. By October 2011 a ban will be passed in the UK on sales of tobacco from vending machines to reduce youth access. In the U.S.A further regulations include the prevention of sales on tobacco products except through direct, face to face exchanges between a retailer and a consumer. It is also illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18 in many countries.

While some countries like Bhutan have strict tobacco regulations where cigarettes have been completely banned other countries have tobacco regulations that are not strictly enforced. In Tanzania laws have been passed where tobacco cannot be sold to people under the age of 18, tobacco cannot be advertised in television and radio and people cannot smoke in public places but these laws are not strictly enforced. The public is not aware of these laws and as a result people under the age of 18 can buy tobacco without being asked for an ID and other people can smoke in public places without being confronted.

One could argue that high income countries have strict tobacco regulations because people consume a lot of tobacco in these countries than other countries in the world. WHO report shows most of the high income countries have higher numbers of cigarette consumers than other countries. The U.S, Canada, Australia, China, Russian Federation and Eastern Europe have an annual cigarette consumption of 2500 and more per person. Other countries in Africa and some Asian countries like India and Bangladesh have an annual cigarette consumption of 1-499 per person.

In places where tobacco regulations are strictly enforced, the amount of people consuming cigarettes has reduced. WHO report shows in the U.S 40% and more of people who used to smoke have quit smoking. Countries where tobacco regulations are not strictly enforced tend to have less people who quit smoking. Examples of such countries shown in WHO report include Russian Federation and China.