Mauritius marks the World No-Tobacco Day this year through two important events: the opening of its nineth tobacco cessation clinic at the Dr Yves Cantin Community Hospital, in Black River and the validation of the new set of tobacco regulations. These two tobacco control measures aim at reducing the demand and the supply of tobacco to better protect the population against the dreadful effects of tobacco. Hon. Dr Kailash Kumar Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness, the WHO Representative in Mauritius, Dr Laurent Musango and high-level officials of the Ministry of Health and Wellness attended both events.
In line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the MPOWER measures, Mauritius first started a tobacco cessation clinic in 2008 on a pilot basis. Subsequently, capacity building was conducted with the support of WHO in view of decentralizing this service at regional level. Since 2011, the tobacco cessation services have been made available in the five health regions. As at date, a total of seven smoking cessation clinics in the country and one in the Rodrigues outer island are offering free of charge both pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies to smokers who want to quit. With the opening of this additional tobacco cessation clinic in the west of the island, more smokers will benefit from this service.
A new set of tobacco regulations was also validated as from 24 May 2021 over three consecutive days with key stakeholders at the Head-quarters of the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Port Louis. This new piece of tobacco legislation is a milestone in the implementation of stronger tobacco control policies in Mauritius as well as strong collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and WHO. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, this exercise was conducted under strict implementation of sanitary measures and in batches of 10 stakeholders. Representatives from key Ministries including Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mauritius Revenue Authority, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, WHO and the State Law Office discussed implementation issues and timeframe before validating the new set of tobacco regulations.
“The new set of legislative measures will address the loopholes and strengthen enforcement of the present tobacco regulations as well as regulate new and innovative tobacco products such as flavour, chewing, smokeless and electronic cigarettes,” said Hon Dr K. K. Jagutpal
“With the promulgation of these new tobacco regulations, Mauritius will be the first African country to be implementing tobacco plain packaging. I would like to thank the WHO for providing legal support in drafting the tobacco plain packaging regulations,” said the Minister of Health and Wellness.
This close collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and WHO in implementing stronger tobacco legislative framework started two years back with in-country mission conducted by WHO legal experts from the WHO Regional Office and the WHO Head Quarters. Various consultation meetings were then held with key stakeholders in view of drafting new tobacco plain packaging legislation. Since then, WHO has been continuously supporting the Ministry in reviewing the different tobacco regulations drafts before finalizing this new legal framework and this was done in close collaboration with the local technical team and the WHO country office.
Mauritius is known worldwide to have taken very bold tobacco control measures since its ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004. The tobacco legislation in Mauritius protects people from tobacco smoke in public places as well as bans tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Mauritius accession to the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products also shows the commitment of the Government of Mauritius in fighting illicit trade of tobacco products.
Mauritius is serving as best practices in the implementation of the pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages and it is one of the rare countries where smoking cessation services are available free of charge to smokers who want to quit smoking. However, the prevalence of smoking in Mauritius remains high among adults but also among young people. Thus, the need to implement stronger tobacco regulations to reduce the demand and supply of tobacco in the country.
Dr L. Musango, during his address at the opening of the Validation workshop on the 24 May 2021 said, “with the COVID-19 pandemic, NCDs are increasing the Case Fatality Ratio, and this is increasing the risk of mortality due COVID-19. Smoking affects the lungs and causes respiratory diseases and smokers have high risks of complications due to COVID-19.”
“The country has been mobilizing all its resources to reduce the high burden of NCDs in Mauritius and to be able to do so, we need to address all the NCD risk factors including tobacco”, said Dr L. Musango. He further added, “this new tobacco regulations will be a powerful weapon to fight the tobacco industry which is investing about US$ 8 billion yearly in marketing lethal products to kill more than 8 million people globally every year.”
The WHO Representative reiterated the commitment of the World Health Organization at the three levels of the Organization, that is the country office, regional office and WHO Head Quarters to support Mauritius in fighting the tobacco epidemic in particular, NCDs in general as well as COVID-19 pandemic in order to promoting health and saving lives in Mauritius.