Empowering the Mauritius Police Force on law enforcement for tobacco control is essential to ensure compliance of the new tobacco law, the Public Health Regulations on Restrictions on Tobacco Products, promulgated in 2022. This initiative was led by the Vie et Santé (VISA) NGO in close partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the University of Mauritius, the WHO country office and the State Law Office.
From April to May 2023, nine-five police officers were released from their routine work to participate in a full day training held at the Police Training Centre in Beau Bassin. The trainees had the opportunity to get updated knowledge on the global tobacco epidemic, its socio-economic impact, the provisions of the Mauritius new tobacco laws including new plain packaging legislation, the tobacco industry interference and counteracting strategies as well as new and emerging tobacco technology products and to discuss how to enforce the new law.
Mauritius’ achievements in tobacco control began in 2003, when the Ministry of Health and Wellness began work towards implementing tobacco control laws. Soon after, on May, 17, 2004, Mauritius was among the first countries to become Party to the WHO FCTC. Since that time Mauritius has always been a pioneer in tobacco control legislation and policies being among the first countries to impose pictorial and written warning on tobacco packaging in 2008 and being as of 31St May 2023 the first country of Africa to institute tobacco plain packaging.
The new regulations 2023 comprehensively strengthen Mauritius’ tobacco control framework by introducing not only plain tobacco packaging and eight new larger pictorial health but also by introducing a complete smoking ban in all indoor workplaces as well as in many outdoor public spaces. Additionally, a ban is imposed on the manufacture, import, distribution and sale of waterpipes, ENDS and ENNDS (including e-liquids), and heated tobacco products (including tobacco products for their use). The regulations impose the same ban on smokeless tobacco products; tobacco products with a characterizing flavor; roll-your-own tobacco and accessories; any other product containing nicotine; and any device used for tobacco consumption that may be manufactured or marketed to replace or imitate a tobacco product.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr Anil Kumar Dip; the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Mauritius, Dr Anne Marie Ancia; VISA’s Honorary President, Mrs Véronique Le Clézio; as well as other personalities, attended the final hand over certificate and closing ceremony organized on 15 May 2023 at the Special Mobile Force Diamond Hall in Vacoas.
“The Mauritius Police Force ensures protection of the population by enforcing all the existing national laws including the new tobacco legislation,” said the Commissioner of Police, Mr Anil Dip. He emphasized the important role of the Mauritius Police Force in enforcing the tobacco laws and protect the population against the harmful effects of tobacco.
The Commissioner of Police highlighted the importance of strengthening awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco among the young generation. He urged the police officers present to share the knowledge gains and contribute to awareness raising among the population.
The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal emphasized the role of each and every person in disseminating anti-tobacco knowledge and discouraging tobacco consumption in the country. He acknowledged the importance of building capacity of the police force to enable them to enforce the law more effectively as far as tobacco consumption is concerned.
“I am sure the workshop has provided more insight to the enforcement officers to become agents of change and non-smoking advocates”, said the Hon Minister of Heath and Wellness.
Dr Anne Ancia, the WHO Representative in Mauritius, recalled, “tobacco kills more than eight million people yearly. 80% of tobacco users live in middle and low-income countries. She emphasized the need for a multi-sectoral coordinated approach to address the scourge of tobacco. She further added, “by addressing tobacco, one of the main NCD risk factors, we can contribute to the global NCD target of reducing NCD mortality, morbidity and disabilities by 25% by 2025.”
“Mauritius has made significant progress in implementing the tobacco control recommendations. The progress made so far is remarkable as Mauritius is now among the first countries in the world to have implemented the MPOWER strategies in a comprehensive manner”, said Dr Anne Ancia. Collaboration between the local stakeholder including the Government, NGOs, Academia and the civil society is key in addressing tobacco control in a comprehensive manner.
The WHO Representative said, “for the new tobacco regulations in place to have the necessary impact on Mauritian population, it is crucial that enforcement officers received the necessary updated knowledge and skills in tobacco control.”
The Honorary President of the NGO VISA, Mrs Le Clézio, highlighted the work of VISA in advancing tobacco control in the country during the past decades. These comprise mainly of ongoing sensitization campaign on the ill-effects of tobacco, research and capacity building in tobacco control .
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Mauritius.