Amendments to Tobacco Order to take effect
Bigger warning labels on cigarette packets
Bandar Seri Begawan – His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam had recently consented to the amendments of the country’s Tobacco Order 2005, which will take the nation’s tobacco-control efforts to new heights as part of the government’s initiative in curbing the risks associated with the addictive, highly risky and death-inducing habit:
In opening the World Cancer Day celebrations yesterday, Minister of Health Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Adanan bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohd Yusof said the amendments to the Orders, two in total, will be implemented separately on March 1, 2012 and September 1, 2012.
This Thursday under the Tobacco (Prohibition in Certain Places) (Amendment) Notification 2012, the act of smoking tobacco products will no longer be allowed within five feet, or approximately six metres, of any building property that does not allow smoking. This amendment also includes additional areas apart from the already existing no-smoking premises like public stairs, hospitals, medical clinics, workshops, factories, financial institutions, public transportation terminals, bus and taxi stops, stadiums, gymnasiums, restaurants, markets, cinemas, eateries etc as a means to “further make effective enforcement measures in reducing smoking-related risk factors especially those that harm the public’s health and the environment”.
The second amendment made to the Order, meanwhile, will be made to the Tobacco (Labelling) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012, which will come into effect in September, stipulates that cigarette boxes are to carry warning labels on 75 per cent of its surface area as practised by other countries such as Australia and Canada as opposed to the current 50 per cent.
Such changes, justified the minister, are made with the objective to further control the trade of tobacco products through its packaging and description, the banning of tobacco-related commercials and smoking bans, which are hoped to subsequently reduce the appeal of smoking.
Government’s efforts in curbing the sale of tobacco products and deterring smokers from lighting up in public places through crackdowns have been making news since 2010 with the Ministry of Health’s strict actions in coming down hard on smokers and in places of business that are too lenient with such individuals, which was then followed by the Ministry of Finance’s announcement to increase tobacco tax that led to an almost two-fold increase in cigarette prices.
Not leaving smokers out to dry with withdrawal symptoms, however, the Ministry of Health does have in place facilities and services whose objective is to aid such individuals in kicking the habit through support provided by trained personnel since mid-2000 with four smoking cessation clinics in Berakas, Sengkurong, Tutong and Seria.
Previous reports have estimated that in 2008 there were about 40,000 smokers in the country, or about 17.5 per cent of the population, with the youngest person registered to quit smoking at one of the clinics then was 15 years old and the eldest being 78.
The Minister of Health in his speech said that cigarette smoking contributes to 30 per cent of all cancer-related deaths and such numbers are increasing in developing countries.
“Tobacco usage is the main risk factor for cancer especially for the respiratory tract and the lungs,” he stated.
Except in the year 2008, the last few years have seen an increase in the number of deaths due to cancer with the highest recorded number in 2010 totalling 252 deaths compared to 215 deaths in 2007, said the minister and added that Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Hospital through its National Pathology Laboratory last year identified five types of cancer that are prevalent in Bruneian namely colon cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and stomach cancer.
Statistics show that there were 72 cases of breast cancer in 2011 and that the number of colon cancer patients had drastically increased from only 15 cases in 2009 to 87 cases last year.
As World Cancer Day, which is observed globally every February 4, highlights the need to spread cancer awareness, Brunei Darussalam has adopted this year’s international World Cancer Day theme – “Together it is Possible” – with the belief that every stakeholder can help in prevent cancer.
“We should not solely rely on the Government of His Majesty … but as members of society, we should be responsible and play our roles to the best of our abilities to prevent and control cancer that has burdened not just patients but also families, the community and the country.”
The National Cancer Centre, added the minister, is currently planning to expand its treatment for cancer patients through multi-disciplinary practices and perusing evidence-based modalities to further ensure that patients are being treated even more effectively whilst the Ministry of Health is currently planning to provide a “National Strategic Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases” such as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and so on.
Apart from educational and health promotion programmes, other efforts that are carried out by the Ministry of Health in preventing cancer include nationwide programmes that encourage women to undergo Pap Smear Test as part of the establishment of the National Pap Smear Registry early last year to prevent cervical cancer, whilst young school girls were vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and immunise against viral infections.
“Preventative measures are the most cost-effective approach in the long-term in controlling cancer. It should be noted that early detection and treatment can reduce the burden of cancer by as much as 33 per cent,” the minister said. “Early detection can increase the effectiveness of treatment especially if the cancer has not spread” to the various stages.
Follow-up programmes as an extension to World Cancer Day 2012 are expected to take place in all four districts through roadshows and forums.
—Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin