The Jakarta Post
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on the 11 countries of their South-East Asia Region to enhance public awareness of the health impacts of all types of tobacco products.
It says there should also be effective measures in place to reduce tobacco consumption and actively counter interference by tobacco industry.
'Taxes on tobacco products must be strengthened as well to reduce tobacco consumption,' said a spokesperson from WHO, adding that countries needed to enhance surveillance, research and cessation of tobacco use.
WHO has praised countries in the region that have already increased pictorial warnings on tobacco products ' one of the recommendations of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
In Nepal, pictorial warnings must cover 90 percent of the surface of cigarette packs while in Thailand, they must cover 85 percent. Meanwhile, the Maldives and Nepal have banned all tobacco advertising.
'Although nine countries in the region have levied excise tax on tobacco products, we need to simplify tax structures and harmonize taxation across all tobacco products to close tax loopholes that the tobacco companies exploit to continue making their products accessible to younger and poorer people,' read a WHO statement issued on Monday.
It said that accelerating the implementation of the WHO FCTC was vital for achieving the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which aimed to reduce tobacco use by 30 percent by 2025.
WHO made the statements on the sidelines of the 68th regional committee meeting of the WHO South-East Asia Region in Dili, Timor Leste, which started Monday. Timor Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de AraÃºjo inaugurated the regional committee meeting.
An array of health issues will be discussed at the meeting, which runs from Sept. 7 to Sept. 11. Among the key issues include health emergency responses, the growing anti-microbial resistance which threatens to undo the advances made with the use of antibiotics, prevention and control of cancer, universal health coverage expansion and the elimination of neglected tropical diseases.
Health ministers and high-level health ministry delegations from the WHO South-East Asia Region are attending the meeting. (ebf)