Brunei - national tobacco control panel to create smoke-free society..

June 21, 2009 - Brunei Darussalam, a member of the Southeast Aisa Tobacco Control Alliance, has set up a National Committee on Tobacco Control to discuss plans and strategies to reduce the prevalence of smoking in the country and create a smoke-free generation in the long-term. (Population: approximately 400,000 estimate 2009).

The committee, which held its first meeting yesterday, was formed to examine and provide direction, advice and guidance on the National Tobacco Control Programme, in line with the policies suggested by the World Health Organisation, including monitoring use of tobacco products and preventive policies, protecting non-smokers from tobacco smoke, providing warnings on the dangers of tobacco consumption and enforcing warnings on advertising and promotion of tobacco products.

It is also tasked with the responsibility of implementing the 2005 Tobacco Order and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in addition to increasing coordination with various sectors involved in the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Programme. The committee will also ensure and enforce the implementation of the programme aimed at preventing and controlling the use of tobacco and reduce smoking rate, by preventing initial usage of tobacco, particularly among youths and women while also motivating the public to stop their usage of tobacco products.

Briefing the committee on the dangers, current status and developments of smoking in the country was Senior Medical Officer Dr Hj Zulhilmi Abdullah. He said that as many as 500 million out of the world's one billion smokers will die because of smoking — the main cause of death in the world — which can be prevented. He addewd that as many as 10,000 people will die per day because of tobacco-related causes, resulting in one death every 10 seconds equating to about four million deaths every year. The senior medical officer explained that smoking, unlike other bad habits, is harmful not only to the smoker but to those around him as well. "Passive smoking is harmful to those around you such as your family and friends," he said.

Dr Hj Zulhilmi then gave a detailed explanation of the measures that the Ministry of Health has undertaken in the fight against smoking in the country. He explained that licences are now required for the import and sale of cigarettes.

Rules to prevent public and underaged smoking have also been enforced and strengthened where those found to have sold cigarettes to those under the age of 18 will be liable to a fine of $5,000 and minors purchasing the product can be fined $10,000 or serve a six-month jail term. It is also now mandatory for cigarette packaging to contain warnings on the dangers and consequences of smoking. Another proven strategy of reducing the number of smokers in other countries was by increasing the price of cigarettes.

He said that an increase of 10 percent on the total price of the cigarettes would reduce the number of smokers in the country by four to eight percent, however the last time Brunei had increased the price of cigarettes was about six years ago.
The full enforcement of the Tobacco Order 2005 came into full effect on June 1, 2008.

Reference: National tobacco control panel to create smoke-free society, BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, The Brunei Times, 6/21/2009.