Tackling the legal issues regarding implementing WHO FCTC – workshop for NIS in Turkmenistan


Tobacco control experts from the 12 newly independent states (NIS) took part in a workshop to strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on 14–18 December 2015 in Turkmenistan. Participants gained a better understanding of the WHO FCTC, tobacco industry tactics, the key components of effective tobacco control policies and their implementation, as well as strategies to defend the WHO FCTC.

The Deputy Minister of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan opened the meeting, sharing how the Ashgabat Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases in the Context of Health 2020 committed Turkmenistan to speed up actions on tobacco control. The country resolved to become tobacco free by 2025 (with less than 5% of the population smoking). Turkmenistan has already made progress in implementing the WHO FCTC, as it

  • ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products as 1 of 12 countries globally
  • adapted a law banning smoking in public places
  • included large warnings on tobacco packs
  • banned tobacco sponsorship and promotion
  • regulated the sale of tobacco products.

An emerging new European landscape of tobacco control

"Many of the new leaders in tobacco control are now sitting in this room," says Kristina Mauer Stender, Programme Manager, Tobacco Control at WHO/Europe. She drew the attention of participants to the new emerging landscape of tobacco control in the WHO European Region.

The eastern part of the Region has a high prevalence of males smoking while female smoking rates are much lower in the western part. Although there is a clear decline in smoking since ratification of the WHO FCTC in 2005, not all countries will reach the global target of a 30% reduction in smoking prevalence by 2025. Many countries have made progress, but the goals set in the roadmap may not be met due to the low implementation 10 years into the adoption of the WHO FCTC. The next 10 years will be crucial to make advances in tobacco control. Countries are at different stages of implementation, and the post-Soviet countries are well placed to implement the recommendations.

Representing the country in the Region with the highest prevalence of smokers, Dr Oleg Salagay, Director of the Public Health and Communications Department of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, shared his country's experience in implementing WHO FCTC. He highlighted 3 key issues, which had been crucial to make progress:

  • seeing and understanding the end goal
  • combining international evidence and experience
  • using effective communication to denormalize tobacco use and to motivate people to stop smoking.

The interactive part of the workshop was led by Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK), an international organization of attorneys helping countries to fulfill obligations of the WHO FCTC. The organization:

  • provides legislative support in developing draft laws
  • comments on purposed regulatory measures
  • prepares talking points for advocacy
  • supports legal capacity building and litigation against the tobacco industry.

Through hands-on exercises, TFK allowed participants to experience the tactics of the tobacco industry, revealing the misconception of light cigarettes, marketed by the industry as less harmful, and the unscientific methods used by the industry in testing cigarettes. The workshop also covered how tobacco use changes the physical structure of the brain and how participants can prevent tobacco companies in undermining tobacco control policies (WHO FCTC Article 5.3).