Findings from a three-year comprehensive evaluation of tobacco control polices in Mauritius were released on May 31, 2012 by the Honorable Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr. Lormus Bundhoo, in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day. The study was conducted by the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project) in collaboration with Mauritius Institute of Health (MIH) and the Mauritius Ministry of Health and Quality of Life.
For over three years, researchers from the Mauritius Institute of Health (MIH) have been partnering with the World Health Organization, and Mauritius Ministry of Health and Quality of Life in collaboration with the University of Waterloo, on the ITC Mauritius Project. Mauritius positioned itself as a world leader for tobacco control when the government took committed steps to fulfill its obligations under the FCTC and passed the Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations in 2008 - some of the most progressive policies in the African region. In particular, Mauritius was the first nation in the African region to implement pictorial health warnings and is notably also the first country in the world to ban smoking in cars with any passengers. Furthermore, Mauritius imposes specific excise taxes that are based on quantity or weight rather than ad valorem excise taxes based on the manufacturer's price or retail price.
The ITC Mauritius Survey is a longitudinal cohort study of smokers and non-smokers that is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the Public Health Regulations that were implemented across two phases in 2009. Three waves of research have been successfully conducted in Mauritius between 2009 and 2011.
The Wave 3 (2011) ITC Mauritius National Report presents comprehensive longitudinal results across the three waves of research in the nation. Some key findings include:
Smoking and Quitting Behaviour: Despite the decline in perceived societal disapproval of smoking, the majority of Mauritians have negative views on smoking. In fact, the majority of Mauritians support a total ban on tobacco products within 10 years, if the government provides cessation assistance services. While smoke-free laws and pictorial health warnings have led smokers to think about quitting smoking, the majority of smokers who visit health care professionals are still not receiving advice to quit or referrals to cessation services.
Smoke-free Places and Workplaces: There is very strong support for comprehensive smoke-free policies in all public spaces. Furthermore, the implementation of smoke-free laws in indoor workplaces and public spaces has increased the prevalence of smoke-free homes. Mauritius has the highest percentage of smoke-free homes among low and middle-income countries surveyed in the ITC Project. Further efforts are required to reduce tobacco smoke pollution or secondhand smoke in workplaces and hospitality venues.
Health Warning Labels: Mauritius has the highest percentage of smokers who notice warning labels among 19 ITC countries. Pictorial warnings have increased knowledge of the harms of smoking and increased thoughts and behaviours associated with quitting. Pictorial warnings are the most common source of information in Mauritius on the dangers of smoking among smokers. However, the impact of the eight pictorial warning labels is either declining or has not improved since Wave 2 (2010) indicating a "wear-out" effect. .
Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship: The Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations have been effective in reducing, and sometimes virtually eliminating the presence of tobacco marketing and promotion. However, Mauritians are still highly exposed to images of smoking on television and movies. The U.S. Surgeon General's 2012 report has found that these images strongly influence youth to start smoking.
Public Awareness Campaigns: Nearly all respondents reported being exposed to the 'Sponge Campaign'. Anti-smoking messages, including the Sponge Campaign were highly visible and effective in promoting and strengthening public awareness of the dangers of smoking and benefits of quitting.
Price and Tax: The 25% increase in excise duty on cigarettes has not contributed to reductions in affordability of cigarettes. Furthermore, there is a low compliance with the ban on the sale of single cigarettes.
Illicit Trade: Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations 2008 and the Excise (Amendment) Regulations 2008, implemented to curb illicit trade have been effective in bringing it down to 4% in 2011 from 15% in 2010.
Through its commitment, the government of Mauritius has attained significant achievements in tobacco control, supported by evidence from the ITC Mauritius Survey. However, the Survey also identified areas where stronger policy implementation is required, such as price and taxation policies, enforcement of smoke-free policies, and the ban on sale of single cigarettes. The wear-out effect of the pictorial warning labels between Waves 2 and 3 highlights the need to rotate fresh pictorial warnings at regular intervals.
Click here to download The ITC Mauritius National Report.