WHO issues new guidance on tobacco product regulation (9 March 2018)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new guidance on tobacco product regulation for maximum protection of public health.

Background Information:

Menthol is one of the most widely used and recognizable flavours in tobacco products, with unique cooling properties that help to mask the harshness and irritation
of tobacco. Use of menthol tobacco products is concentrated among the
youngest ages in several countries, and these products are associated with:

  • increased experimentation and trial use
  • perceptions of reduced harm 
  • higher levels of dependence
  • greater difficulty quitting

Given strong global evidence that menthol increases tobacco product attractiveness, efforts to restrict or ban menthol in tobacco products are appropriate even in markets where the use of menthol remains limited.

Key Messages:

The WHO has issued two new guidance documents on tobacco product regulation:

  • Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity; and
  • Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products – Menthol in tobacco products

“Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity” provides practical, stepwise approaches to implementing tobacco testing. Such guidance is relevant to a wide range of countries in various settings, including those with inadequate resources to establish a testing facility.

This laboratory guide is a useful resource for countries, and provides regulators and policymakers with comprehensible information on how to test tobacco products, what products to test, and how to use testing data in a meaningful way to support regulation.

Further, it provides a step-by-step guide to

  • developing a testing laboratory,
  • using an existing internal laboratory,
  • contracting an external laboratory, and
  • making use of the available support mechanisms both within WHO and externally.

This calls for country prioritization and commitment of resources to tobacco product regulation, as the guide equips regulators with the necessary tools to strengthen tobacco regulation capacity, especially in relation to Article 9 of the WHO FCTC.

The publication “Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products – Menthol in tobacco products” complements the 2016 advisory note on menthol published by the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation, which set out the available evidence on prevalence and health effects of menthol in tobacco products, as well as evidence-based conclusions and recommendations for policy-makers and regulators on menthol in its various forms.

The case studies provide practical guidance and policy options to countries about effective regulatory strategies in tobacco product regulation. This includes lessons learned and challenges encountered in developing and implementing menthol related regulation.

To date, regulators have adopted multiple approaches to restricting the use of menthol. These include

  • a ban in some product categories,
  • a total ban on the use of all flavours, and
  • a ban on all products with a perceived menthol flavour.

This publication also provides useful information on the merits and drawbacks of various regulatory approaches.

Useful Links:

Link to the WHO news release:

http://www.who.int/tobacco/communications/news/guidance-tobacco-product-regulation/en/

Link to WHO publications on tobacco product regulation:

http://www.who.int/tobacco/publications/prod_regulation/en/

Link to WHO page on quitting tobacco:

http://www.who.int/tobacco/quitting/en/

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