The Jakarta Post
Health ministers from the 11 countries that make up the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region signed a declaration on Monday pledging to accelerate measures aimed at reducing tobacco use. Around 150 people die of smoking-related causes every hour in the region.
'Tobacco use in the South-East Asia Region is alarmingly high, triggering major health and economic consequences. Tougher actions are needed for tobacco control and prevention. Countries must equally tax all tobacco products, ban tobacco advertisements, enforce pictorial warnings on cigarette packaging and implement bans on smoking in public,' WHO South-East Asia Region director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said on Monday.
She was speaking at the signing of the declaration, which was initiated by WHO, the UN's health body.
WHO says the Dili Declaration was signed on the sidelines of the 68th regional committee meeting of the WHO South-East Asia Region, which started on Monday morning in the capital of Timor Leste. The declaration calls on governments, United Nations agencies and stakeholders to accelerate tobacco control in the region, the inhabitants of which consume over one-third of the world's tobacco.
Khetrapal Singh said tobacco use was the leading cause of preventable deaths. Tobacco-related premature deaths were not only a loss to victims' families but also had a huge economic impact on countries.
'We need to enforce stringent policies and measures to help people reduce and eventually quit tobacco; to prevent the youth and children from taking up tobacco use; and to protect people from second-hand tobacco smoke,' she said.
Khetrapal Singh also called for stricter implementation of tobacco control and prevention guidelines as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
WHO reports that tobacco kills 1.3 million people in its South-East Asia Region every year. This includes people who have never used tobacco themselves, but are exposed to second- and third-hand tobacco effects.
'The region is home to 25 percent of the world's smokers and 90 percent of the world's smokeless tobacco users; about 246 million and 290 million people respectively. The prevalence of different types of smokeless tobacco is on the rise; that is, tobacco being chewed, sucked, snuffed orally or nasally, sipped or gargled or applied to teeth and gums,' said WHO in a statement on Monday. Tobacco use is one of the major causes of serious diseases such as lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. (ebf)