Last Updated on 3 months by Riaz Hassan
- Your Excellencies – Mr Feakes, Mr Curr & Mr Welsh
- UNDP Representative – Ms Gayane Tovmasyan
- The Director Technical Support – WHO South Pacific – Dr Capuano
- Representative – DFAT & MFAT
- Representative – Fiji Revenue & Customs Service
- Representative – Fiji Police Force
- Ladies & Gentleman
NI SA BULA VINAKA
This year marks the 17th year of Fiji’s commitment and support towards the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
- Signed in 2003 and the first developing country to do so, Fiji remain consistent in its commitment for the last 17 years to stand with countries that have rectified the Convention & Protocol and to rise above the tobacco industry’s documented history of sabotage, and together develop innovative approaches that will see Fijians protected and safeguarded from the harmful effects of tobacco products.
- Tobacco continues to be one of the leading cause of morbidity and mortality across the globe. With over 8 million deaths each year world-wide, this makes the tobacco epidemic one of the largest public health threats.
- There is irrefutable evidence on the devastating effects of tobacco to individuals and families alike. It is highly addictive and causes ill health and death to users. Even non-users exposed to second-hand smoke are affected, and that accounts to 1.2 million deaths globally a year. And unfortunately, even children to addictive parents fall victim in the process.
- The most recent Global School-based Student Health Survey in Fiji conducted in 2016 found that over 50% of children aged 13-15 years reported being exposed to tobacco smoke in public places and homes in the past week.
- The total cost of healthcare attributable to smoking-related diseases in the Western Pacific region (WPR) equates to an average of 2.6% of its national GDP for 15 Countries surveyed in our region.
- This consequently has tremendous impact on the progress of economic development and growth because global data indicates an alarming majority of deaths from tobacco in developing countries across the earth happened within the economically productive age bracket of 30 – 69 years.
- Social impact, such as unemployment, school dropout poverty, addiction, to name a few becomes a consistent issue with the most vulnerable severely affected in children and the elderly.
- In Fiji’s effort to ensure that suffering caused by tobacco products continues to be supressed, the government in 2010 passed the Tobacco Control Act with the Tobacco Regulation in 2012.
- The Fijian Government through its annual budget have had consistent increase in tobacco taxation since 2013, which had resulted in a significant increase in prices of tobacco products which subsequently act as a deterrent to users over the last years.
- With the government’s endorsement on the Tobacco Regulation in 2012, Fiji has instituted drastic measures towards its tobacco control work that includes the following:
- Introducing graphic health pictures on all tobacco packaging that covers 30% on the front and 90% at the back.
- Annual registrations of wholesalers and distributors.
- Annual licensing for manufacturers and importers which carries a hefty amount.
- Restriction of public places from smoking, and that includes workplace, enclose areas where public has access, eateries, and designated areas in taverns, bars and nightclubs.
- There has been a significant increase on the trainings done for tobacco control officers and prosecutors over the years which have consequently resulted in an increasing number of offenders apprehended and the subsequent increase in cases that ended up in court.
- With our current remodelling plan, much of this service will be decentralized and we are intending to open up more tobacco enforcement units at the sub-regional national level.
- While there are significant progresses in Fiji’s compliance to the FCTC, global data revealed that 11.6% of all tobacco is sourced from illicit streams, and this amounts to around 1 in every 9 cigarettes.
- Tax avoidance and tax evasion continue to increase and they undermine the effectiveness of tobacco control policies. These activities range from legal actions such as purchasing tobacco products from lower tax jurisdiction to illegal ones such as smuggling and counterfeiting.
- Lately, Fiji has experienced an increase in chewing tobacco (which is an illegal product) and counterfeit tobacco products which do not meet the requirements of our legislation.
- We are slowly witnessing the presence of unregulated emerging tobacco products such as shisha and other products like e-cigarettes within our boarders and Fiji’s step to becoming a Party to the World Health Organization’s Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products in 2019 is timely and prudent.
- Around this time last year, the Ministry convened a multi-stakeholder consultation to strengthen Fiji’s tobacco enforcement work specifically around the areas of illicit trade of tobacco products at our boarders and within.
- A major outcome in that meeting is the formation of what we currently have as the “National Tobacco Control Multi-Stakeholder Taskforce” which comprised of the Fiji Revenue & Customs Services (FRCS), Fiji Police Force, Local Municipal Councils and Health.
- Following that is the signing of an MOU earlier this year between the Ministry and the FRCS that gives us access to the FRCS’s Automated System of Customs & Data World (ASYCUDA WORLD) on imported and exported products.
- This is a major breakthrough in Ministry’s effort to ensure that what comes in and out of our boarders is regulated and conveniently tracked and traced and this data sharing platform will give us access to first hand data and information on movements of commodities which will easily result in the apprehension of perpetrators of illicit activities.
- And I take this time to acknowledge and thank the support of our partners – the Fiji Police Force, the Municipal Councils and the FRCS that has ensured the formation of a broader collaborative cross-sectoral platform of addressing illicit tobacco trade.
- And this project through the Convention Secretariat, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and WHO will no doubt enhance our efforts in achieving the articles in the FCTC & the Protocol and surely align us well in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
- With that said, I have much pleasure in officially launching the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2030 Fiji Project.