According to the ANMAT (Argentina’s National Administration for Medicines, Food, and Technology), smoking is striking a population which skews younger, more feminine, and poorer than ever before. On May 31st, along with the Ministry of Health, the organization will present a declaration to the Argentine Senate based on these findings.
In Argentina, smoking kills around 40,000 people each year, and around 25 percent of the population smokes (approximately 10 million of adults) one of the highest rates in the region. However, the real danger of the cigarettes in Argentina, according to a recent article by El Tribuno, is the shift into the demographics of these smokers. Nowadays, a high number of teenagers are smoking, and will probably continue later in life, which has serious public health implications.
Rosa Estevan, from the Smoking and Epidemiology Section of the Argentine Association of Respiratory Medicine (AAMR) warns that “the economy also suffers from the consequences of the growth of health spending and the loss of productivity” caused by the addiction.
The shift in the average smoker’s profile is even more dangerous, as it now affects the more vulnerable parts of the population: teenagers, women, and people from lower socioeconomic classes. Teenage girls, for example, smoke 33 percent more than boys of the same age, and more than 25 percent of the people in situation of major vulnerability are smokers, more than the numbers seen for citizens from higher income brackets.
Vaping is officially forbidden in Argentina, although it isn’t hard to find electronic cigarettes in Buenos Aires. According to specialists, the fact that smoking is now considered an actual disease changed the conception people had on cigarettes, but the tobacco industry has already adapted itself by designing new forms of consumption. One one hand, they created the electronic cigarettes which are now commonplace in Europe and North America, on the other hand, the IQOS (for “I Quit Ordinary Smoking,” but which still has tobacco in it) which is gaining important ground in the United States. The former has been banned in Argentina by the ANMAT since 2011, although vaping products are readily available in certain shops around Capital Federal. Experts are still debating on whether or not legalizing (and thus controlling and taxing) it would benefit the state more than the citizens.
However, the real question posed by the ANMAT is if Argentina really wants to stop the propagation of smoking in the country. In 2005, the UN (via its World Health Organization branch) released the “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control” (FCTC), the first international treaty on the topic, with many proposals to control the epidemic of tobacco, including particular attentions on lobbying, packaging, awareness, advertising, and smuggling. Although the Argentine government signed the convention, it never ratified the FCTC, being one of the only 24 countries that did so; 168 UN member states did ratify it.
This May 31st, the ANMAT will thus present a declaration along with Adolfo Rubinstein’s Minister of Health to the Senate, asking the government to finally ratify the treaty. According to this declaration, FCTC will be essential to “counteract the intentions of the tobacco industry to undermine or denature” the tobacco’s control policies, an industry which kills more than five million people annually (this number is expected to reach eight million by 2030). The declaration also states that the ratification could contribute to the reduction of poverty in the country, something the state should take into account as “Argentina has a long tradition of being an international part of human rights,” making the FCTC even more relevant to protect the younger populations in the country.