Fifty-eighth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 10-14 September 2007, Jeju, Republic of Korea
Jeju, Republic of Korea, 14 September 2007—The World Health Organization has called for an all-out war against tobacco use in the Asia Pacific region now that almost all Members States are parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
"There is astonishing global momentum," Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, told the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific at its fifty-eighth session in Jeju. "But this part of the world has a mandate and special responsibility to attack this scourge." Smoking kills more than 3000 people in the Western Pacific Region each day. The Region has one third of the world's smokers, the highest percentage of male smokers and the fastest increase of smoking among children and young women.
By December 2006, all Member States of the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia Regions had ratified the WHO FCTC, with the exception of Indonesia. The WHO FCTC is an international treaty aimed at improving global health by reducing tobacco consumption through schemes such as tobacco price and tax increases and a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship.
"Tobacco use, the world's leading cause of preventable death, is an epidemic that will kill 1 billion people this century unless governments in rich and poor countries alike get serious about preventing it," Dr Omi said.
Reporting to the Regional Committee which is reviewing WHO's work in the Region, Dr Omi said that a few Western Pacific Member States already have met FCTC requirements, and that several more are making good progress in implementing Convention provisions.
"In this Region, we will continue to aggressively promote evidence-based strategies such as tax and price measures, the expansion of smoke-free policies, comprehensive bans on advertising and promotion, stronger health warnings on tobacco products, and where possible, increasing access to cessation therapies," Dr Omi said.
At the most recent meeting in July 2007, parties to the Convention adopted strong guidelines on second-hand smoke and established an intergovernmental negotiating body to start work on an anti-smuggling protocol on illicit trade. Work on several guidelines has also begun on packaging, labelling and advertising, promotion and sponsorship, tobacco industry interference, education, communication, training and public awareness as well as on cessation.
"There is strength in numbers," said Dr Omi. "No country will be alone when they face down the tobacco industry and those who want to protect the continued spread of this deadly epidemic."