Ministry studies tobacco report

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) is studying the recommendations of a Joint Mission to Samoa, which is pushing for tobacco use in Samoa to be controlled and reduced due to its impact on health outcomes and the country’s long-term prosperity.

M.O.H. Assistant Chief Executive Officer (Health Protection and Enforcement), Mae’e Ualesi Silva, told the Samoa Observer in an interview that the country has only recorded a 49.5 per cent below average achievement on World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations for taxes on tobacco products to be increased by 70 per cent.

“But right now, Samoa has yet to achieve this number as it is far from being close to it so that is why we need to look into this position,” she said. 

“These are the doings that the government is looking into in terms of decreasing the amount of people who smoke."

It is hoped the increase in taxation of tobacco products will discourage people from smoking, though Mae’e added that research done by the Ministry also showed that smoking is on the rise among students.

The second recommendation in the Joint Mission report is for the implementation of an action plan to amend the 2019 Tobacco Control Act. This would result in the sale of tobacco products by minors being minimised, moves to plain packaging is explored and exemptions of smoke-free zones are removed. 

The ban on smoking in public places will also be revisited as Mae’e is of the view that it should also be applied to a house’s outdoor area. 

“It is a must to consider such as even though a smoker can go to smoke outside, the smoke gas will somehow still come into the building where they are smoking outside,” she added.

The Joint Mission’s third recommendation is for the National Tobacco Control Committee to enter into discussions on ways to enforce a decrease in the effects and usage of tobacco in everything and everywhere. 

Such a statement, according to Mae’e, means that where strategies are developed government employees should not have any communication with tobacco producing companies under Public Service Commission’s recommendations. 

It is hoped this will lead to the creation of a code of ethics for all public services to avoid being engaged with the tobacco industry, she added. 

“We at MOH also have a downfall in our assigned jobs and duties of responsibilities as we are not enforcing the law that strongly,” she said.

Mae’e said some of the areas of recommendations have been achieved, most of them have been otherwise, especially in terms of smoking in public places such as taxis and buses.

“We are still looking into such situations where the law has not been taken seriously by the public,” she concluded. 

The Joint Mission – comprising the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat (FCTC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) – which visited Samoa last year as part of the FCTC Project to support nations strengthen WHO FCTC implementation in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It presented a report containing its findings and recommendations to the Samoa government last week. 

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