New tobacco Bill passed

Parliament today passed the Tobacco Control Bill 2016, in a unanimous display to address lifestyle and communicable diseases affecting Papua New Guineans.

The Bill was passed 64 – 0 and repeals the Tobacco Products (Health Control) Act 1987.

Health Minister, Michael Malabag, when making the second and third reading of the Bill, said the former Act was 30 years old and an enhanced Government response was necessary to address the direct costs to individuals and the government.

He said there is a sharp increase in non-communicable diseases, particularly heart diseases, diabetes and cancers which are knownto be closely associated with cigarette smoking and exposure to it.

“Mr. Speaker, these diseases are expensive to treat and our PNG health system cannot cope with a quickly growing burden of disease from cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The main provisions of the Bill include:

  • Smoke free environments;
  • The regulation of cigarette packaging to make them less attractive and socially acceptable;
  • Requires registration of various businesses which deal with tobacco products, allowing for government tracking of outlets, prevent sales to children and also increases Government revenue.
  • Empowers District Development Authorities to license the sale of brus;
  • Develops an underlying law in an innovative and separate regime for brus to be sold in informal businesses and markets.

A health promotion trust fund is included in the Bill and allows the National Department of Health to retain funds from licensing and registration of tobacco importers, manufacturers and retailers to help implement the act.

Malabag said businesses with interests in tobacco products may not welcome the law, however, the health of PNG citizens was of utmost importance.

“While the PNG Government supports and encourages commerce to grow the PNG economy, it also recognises that the use of tobacco products imposes a severe burden on the PNG health system and on the productivity of its workforce which also affects the PNG economy,” he said.

Cedric Patjole