Maldives - tobacco control bill under consideration..

Click to enlarge, Maldives Coat-of-Arms:

October 20, 2009 - A tobacco control bill proposed by the government to ban smoking in public places and set restrictions on its use was sent to social affairs committee for further review today. All 55 MPs who participated voted in favour of sending the bill to the committee.

The Republic of Maldives is a small archipelago consisting of 1190 coral
islands situated over the equator and divided into 20 administrative atolls (A ringlike coral island and reef that nearly or entirely encloses a lagoon. The origin of the word atoll itself is in the language of the Maldives.). The total land area is 298 sq km. The islands are low lying and almost 80% of the islands are barely one metre above sea level. Of the 1190 islands, only 199 are inhabited with only 270,101 people with a male to female ratio of 103:100. More than 75,000 people live in Male’, the capital city of just 2 square kilometres, making it among the most densely populated places in the world.

The first national tobacco prevalence survey conducted in 1997 revealed that among males, 57% were smokers and among females 29% were smokers. With the ongoing anti-tobacco campaign tobacco use among the males decreased to 37.4% and to 15% among females in 2001. It is either smoked as cigarettes, bidis, and hubble-bubble or chewed with betel nuts. Main form of tobacco use is cigarette smoke. Tobacco is not cultivated in the Maldives and all forms of tobacco consumed are imported.

In 2004, Maldives acceded to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which requires certain regulations to be enforced. Provisions of FCTC and legislation measures..

Presenting the bill at a previous sitting, Health Minister Aminath Jameel said the dangers and health risks of tobacco were well established and the habit led to extreme suffering. “When I looked at the statistics of our country, I see cancer, one of the most painful of diseases. In 2004, 40 people passed away. In 2008, the number of people who died from different types of cancer increased to 79,” she said. The number of people who died of heart diseases increased from 192 people in 2004 to 403 in 2008, she added.

The bill states its purpose is to keep children away from tobacco use, provide information to smokers to make responsible decisions and stop advertisement and promotion of cigarettes. The second clause of the bill states that everyone has the right to protection from passive smoking.

If passed, smoking will be banned in workplaces, public places such as parks, cinemas and conference halls, public transport, teashops, restaurants, cafes, education institutes and hospitals.

Further, selling cigarettes to minors will be an offence and cigarettes will only be sold in packs. It also places restrictions on the advertisement and promotion of cigarettes.

A one-year period following ratification will be given to draft regulations and enforce the laws.

The legislation also calls for the formation of a national council for tobacco control to be chaired by the health minister.

Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed Nasheed, an independent, noted that one-third of all deaths in the Maldives were due to illnesses caused by smoking.
If current trends continue, he added, the WHO estimated the number would rise to two-thirds by 2030.

Reference: Majlis proceeds with tobacco control bill, Ahmed Naish, Minivan News, 10/19/2009; Maldives, Sheena Moosa, Ahmed Afaal, Paper presented at: Consultative Meeting of the Principal Investigators on the Development of Multi-sectoral Mechanisms for Comprehensive Tobacco Control, 17 – 18 December 2002, Yangon, Myanmar...

Maldivian Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Ibrahim Didi (right) signs document (under water) calling on all countries to cut down their carbon dioxide emissions.

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