MALAWI – The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has come into force following Malawi’s ratification.

This historic decision allows Malawi to join the Convention’s community of 182 other parties, reaffirming the country’s high-level political commitment to combating the global tobacco epidemic and prioritizing public health and well-being.

The Convention, which Malawi ratified in August 2023, is a critical international treaty aimed at addressing the serious public health risks associated with tobacco consumption and tobacco smoke exposure.

Malawi’s ratification demonstrates the country’s commitment to protecting current and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental, and economic consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Tobacco use in all forms is harmful, and there is no safe level of tobacco exposure with cigarette smoking being the most common form of tobacco use worldwide.

Other tobacco products include waterpipe tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, heated tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, bidis, and kreteks, as well as smokeless tobacco products.

Dr. Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo, WHO Representative in Malawi, congratulated Malawi on this historic step and reaffirmed WHO’s strong commitment to working closely with the government to achieve the WHO FCTC’s shared goals.

“Together, we will continue our collective efforts to protect public health and work towards a tobacco-free future,” she noted.

The FCTC, which came into force in February 2005, provides an internationally coordinated response to the tobacco epidemic, laying out specific steps for governments to take to address tobacco use and production.

Adopting tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption, as well as prohibiting tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, are some of the measures that the government should implement in accordance with the FCTC.

Other steps in this process include creating smoke-free workplaces and public spaces, prominently displaying health warnings on tobacco packages, and combating illicit tobacco product trade.

Smoking causes disease and disability and harms nearly every organ in the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease.

For every person who dies as a result of smoking, at least 30 others suffer from a serious smoking-related illness.

Tobacco use is linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Smoking also increases the risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and immune system problems such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Each year, secondhand smoke causes approximately 41,000 deaths among nonsmokers and 400 deaths among infants.

In adults, secondhand smoke causes stroke, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease.

Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more severe asthma, respiratory symptoms, and slowed lung growth in children.

Tobacco use is the single-most preventable cause of death that kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year, with more than 6 million being tobacco users or ex-users and approximately 890,000 being non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

More than 80% of these fatalities take place in low- and middle-income countries.

Tobacco is not only harmful to those who consume it or are exposed to tobacco smoke, but it is also harmful to those who plant, cultivate, harvest, and process it.

According to the WHO, tobacco farmers may absorb nicotine equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes per day.

Working with tobacco farmers on crop replacement and diversification is an important part of implementing the FCTC, which has long-term economic, agricultural, and health benefits.

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