The Union has worked in South-East Asia since 2006, providing grants and technical support to organisations working on tobacco control activities through the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use (BI) Grants Program.
The Union’s work in South-East Asia has led to major tobacco control policy achievements, including:
- Bangladesh has announced plans to make the country tobacco-free by 2040. The Union is working closely with the government and civil societies to achieve this commitment. A comprehensive draft National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) is being developed aligned with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. To support sustainable funding for tobacco control initiatives in the country, in 2017 the government of Bangladesh secured sustainable funding for tobacco control and non-communicable disease prevention with a new policy to manage funds levied on tobacco products, equivalent to US$ 31 million per year. Read more.
- In India, The Union has worked closely with the central and state governments, civil society and academic institutes since 2007, strengthening tobacco control policies and programmes to curb the tobacco epidemic.
- In September 2019, India banned the production, import and sale of e-cigarettes and other Heat Not Burn devices, determining that immediate action would help protect youth from nicotine addiction and eventual cigarette smoking. The Union supported over 15 states to issue ENDS bans order before working closely with the Ministry of Health on national ENDS ban. Read more.
- With technical support from The Union, more than 300 policy notifications and orders were issued across the states to strengthen the institutional framework for tobacco control, enforce the National Tobacco Control Laws including COTPA and FSSA, build multi-stakeholder involvement, scale-up tobacco-free education institutes, and stop TII through FCTC Article 5.3.
- Recently, given the increased risk of COVID-19 infection, national government, 26 states and 288+ districts in India are to ban the sale and/or use of tobacco products, mainly smokeless tobacco and pan masala. The Union along with other partners have concerted and provided technical support to issue such ban orders both at national and at the state level, based on existing legislations, mainly the Epidemics Act, National Disaster Management Act, Indian Penal Code and State Acts.
- The Union is continuously providing technical support to adopt guidelines for stopping tobacco industry interference. To advance the discussion, The Union organised a high-level workshop on FCTC Article 5.3 and stopping TII in August 2019. In 2019, 4 more states—Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Meghalaya—and 5 districts in West Bengal, created policies to stop TII. By December 2019, a total of 13 states have adopted policy guidelines to stop TII in tobacco control. With the efforts of partners, MOH issued an advisory urging state governments to avoid any collaboration with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World and any foundation supported by TI. The Union and its partners are also closely monitoring and countering tobacco industry interference both at the national and state level.
- The Union continued its support for reducing the availability and accessibility of tobacco products, especially to youth through vendor licensing. In 2019, Uttarakhand adopted a state-level policy on vendor licensing and many cities in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal notified similar directives through city administrations to prohibit manufacturing, packaging, storage and sale of tobacco products without prior permission. Following the consultation on 'Advancing Tobacco Control through Tobacco Vendors Licensing for Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh' organised by The Union and its state partner, Mohali Municipal Corporation becomes the first corporation in Punjab to pass a resolution making the vendor licensing compulsory. The Union is now supporting many state and city administrations including Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal etc.to develop implementation guidelines.
- Also with concerted efforts by all partners, the excise duty on tobacco products was raised on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in the latest budget. It is expected to increase the average price of cigarettes by about 5 percent and SLT by about 14 percent. The Union is closely monitoring the impact of price and tax changes on tobacco products and also provided technical support to present the policy note/factsheet to the Finance Minister and GST Council Members.
- With the demand at state level generated through concerted efforts of The Union and all other partners and state’s readiness, the National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) has now been expanded to over 600 districts across all 36 states/UTs. The Union is continuously working to establish and strengthen institutional mechanisms to implement the programmes and build the capacity of the stakeholders. For capacity building, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW), in collaboration with WHO and The Union, updated the NTCP managers’ training modules and training schedule and created a pool of around 200 trainers from all 35 states/UTs. The Union, along with other BI partners, also supported the first state-level training of programme managers in December 2019, based on the revised module.
- In 2019 and 2020, The Union and its partners have organised three national consultations on adopting Tobacco-Free Generation for fighting public health emergencies with key stakeholders including policymakers, government officials, public health experts, individual right activists, policy and legal experts, etc. Based on the recommendations of The Union, along with its partners, they are now working with many states governments for Smoke-Free Generation.
- Pakistan banned tobacco displays at point-of-sale in January 2020, prohibiting the tobacco industry from directly marketing its products where goods are sold. Point-of-sale displays are used to entice smokers, non-smokers and children. In addition to supporting the development and passage of this critical legislation, The Union is facilitating government efforts to effectively implement the ban. Read more.