Fifty-sixth session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 19 to 23 September 2005
Noumea, New Caledonia—The fight to protect global health has reached new levels as many countries around the world begin implementing more vigorously tobacco-control strategies as provided for in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
Rapid and encouraging progress has already been made on tobacco control in the Western Pacific Region since the WHO FCTC became a binding international law in February 2005. The WHO FCTC, the world's first tobacco control treaty, aims to improve global health by reducing tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke pollution.
"In the Western Pacific Region, 3 000 people die each day from tobacco use," Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said in his report to a meeting here of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's governing body in the Region. "Now countries in the Western Pacific are moving from an awareness of the seriousness of this global epidemic to taking aggressive action."
Some countries in the Western Pacific Region have already significantly decreased tobacco use through evidence-based tobacco control strategies, such as bans on tobacco advertising, increasing tobacco taxes and prices, and implementing comprehensive smoke-free policies. For example:
- In the Republic of Korea, adult male smoking prevalence has decreased from 58% to 53%, and teenage male smoking has dropped from 22% to 16% in less than a year.
- In the Philippines, the percentage of youth smokers declined by a third from 2000 to 2003. In addition, there has been an enormous change in attitude towards tobacco use: almost all youth now support strong smoke-free policies, compared to only half three years previous."
- In Japan, there has been significant reduction in male smoking.
Unfortunately, a handful of countries in the Western Pacific Region have not taken effective action to control tobacco use, delaying important legislation, weakening existing laws, and conceding to multinational tobacco industry interests in promoting their deadly products.
Meanwhile, the Regional Committee urged Member States to take action consistent with the strategies detailed in the Regional Action Plan for the Tobacco-Free Initiative (2005-2009), such as addressing the impact of tobacco on poverty, strengthening tobacco-control leadership, improving infrastructure and resources, integrating tobacco control with other health programmes and developing sustainable, multisectoral partnerships.
WHO has warned that smoking-related deaths will double in the Western Pacific Region by the year 2030 to 2 million each year and 6000 each day if the fight against tobacco use is not intensified.
Facts about WHO FCTC
- The WHO FCTC became a binding international law in February 2005, following the ratification of 40 countries. (At least 40 WHO Member States were needed to sign and ratify the WHO FCTC to enable it to enter into force.)
- As of 22 September 2005, 23 of 27 Member States in the Western Pacific Region have ratified the WHO FCTC, including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, China, Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
- The WHO FCTC provides an unprecedented opportunity for countries to strengthen national tobacco control capacity, but its success requires continued political engagement and additional resources at the global and national levels.
- While the Convention provides guidelines to reduce the harm from tobacco, definitive action to control tobacco must take place at the national level. Therefore, the success of the WHO FCTC will depend almost entirely on the ability of countries to implement and enforce its provisions. Weak or inconsistent enforcement of tobacco control policies and laws will render these measures ineffective.