The Union has worked in Asia Pacific since 2006, providing grants and technical support to organisations through the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use (BI) Grants Program.
China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam are BI Grants Program priority countries, but The Union also supports other countries in the region, including Cambodia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Nepal.
The Union’s work in Asia Pacific has led to major tobacco control policy achievements, including:
- The Ministry of Finance, Indonesia, released a decree in 2020 containing a provision to increase tobacco taxes, simplify tobacco taxation structure and amend tobacco excise policies. Tobacco excise tax increased by 23 percent and tobacco product prices increased by 35 percent on average. This is intended to generate revenue to fund health systems currently under excess strain from COVID-19, as well as the high burden of tobacco-related diseases in the country. The Union has worked closely with the Indonesian Ministries of Health and Finance to increase policy awareness of the benefits of tobacco taxation and tax tier simplification. Read more.
- Subnational tobacco control in Indonesia has rapidly expanded in recent years, with 100 percent smokefree legislations in around 270 cities and districts; tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) bans in 25 cities; and point-of-sale tobacco product display bans in five cities and districts. The city of Bogor, Indonesia, won a court case in February 2020 upholding its ban on point-of-sale tobacco products displays, which was contested by three retailers. The Union and other organisations provided technical and legal support to successfully contest the lawsuit. Read more.
- In the Philippines, The Union worked with its grantees and other partners through the Sin Tax Coalition to increase tobacco taxes further with the enactment of Republic Act 11346 and impose taxes on ENDS/ENNDS and HTPs through Republic Act 11467. This Act also requires the FDA to regulate the manufacture, importation, sale, packaging, advertising, and distribution of e-cigarettes and HTPs, including a ban on flavours other than tobacco and menthol, and increasing the legal age of purchase to 21.
- The Union is also working with subnational jurisdictions in the Philippines to strengthen legislation and implementation of FCTC-compliant smoke-free ordinances. To date, 50 percent of the 1,634 local government units (cities, municipalities) in the Philippines have ordinances in place.
- In Vietnam, where smoke-free enforcement is a key focus of the work of the Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund (VNTCF) and The Union, considerable progress has been made in improving enforcement at the subnational level, including within the public transport system in Ho Chi Min City through The Union’s grantee Center for Health Consultation and Community Development. The Union has also supported MOH and the VNTCF to amend Decree 176/2013 to add provisions to strengthen smoke-free enforcement, including larger fines for violations. The revised Decree is awaiting approval.
- In Vietnam, The Union also regularly monitors tax developments, providing timely updates to partners. The Union also plays a key role, together with WHO, MOF, and Health Bridge on tax modelling to provide tax evidence to Ministries and partners. A draft tax bill was developed for the MOF with The Union's support, that is now awaiting advancement within the political system. The Union has also supported the publication of research on illicit cigarettes in Vietnam.
- In Cambodia, The Union supported the adoption of comprehensive national tobacco control policies, including 100 percent smokefree legislations, TAPS bans, larger graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, and increased tax and prices. The Cambodian Cities Alliances for Tobacco Control was established to enforce these policies at the subnational level, and 24 provincial taskforces were formed. Comprehensive national tobacco control policies have also been adopted in Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste with Union support.
- In 2016, The Union established The Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control and NCDs Prevention (APCAT), creating a specific forum for subnational leaders to advance regional tobacco control. The 4th APCAT Summit, held in September 2019 in Bogor Indonesia, convened over 200 delegates, including Mayors and Members of Parliament from 12 countries and provided knowledge exchange platform to combat the tobacco epidemic. The Union, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Ministries of Health in Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao PDR and Nepal all support APCAT. Read more.