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WHO: More efforts needed to beat the tobacco scourge

Fifty-ninth session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 22-26 September, 2008, Manila, Philippines

MANILA, 26 September 2008—The World Health Organization warned today that countries will need to be much more aggressive in their attempts to stamp out smoking if they are to counter the tobacco industry's marketing techniques.

Unless urgent action is taken, WHO warned that tobacco use could kill one billion people worldwide this century, with 80% of those deaths in developing countries. Worst hit will be WHO's Western Pacific Region, where it is estimated that two people die every minute from tobacco-related diseases. Compared with other WHO regions, the Western Pacific has the greatest number of smokers, the highest rates of male smoking prevalence, and the fastest increase of tobacco uptake by women and young people. In addition, studies show that up to 50% of all young people in the Region are regularly exposed to tobacco smoke pollution in their homes.

In a report to the Regional Committee, Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said the WHO Regional Office continues to put the highest priority on providing technical assistance, capacity-building and other support to countries in keeping with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which seeks to reduce cigarette consumption.

The FCTC, which encourages countries to implement tobacco control strategies, such as raising taxes and banning advertisements, has been ratified by 152 countries, with the Western Pacific being the only WHO Region that has achieved 100% ratification. However, multinational tobacco companies have been skirting around provisions of the FCTC, including aggressively introducing new products and increasingly targeting the developing world.

Dr Omi said it is urgent that nations act now to implement cost-effective solutions that have been proven to reduce tobacco use. Called MPOWER, these solutions require nations to:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies;
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke;
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use;
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco;
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising; and
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

"The global tobacco epidemic not only affect the health of millions of people, but also threatens economies, costing nations hundreds of billions of dollars in health care expenditures and other economic losses each year," Dr Omi said. "Tobacco use disproportionately hurts the poor and deepens poverty by siphoning off money needed for basic necessities such as food, shelter and education and killing wage earners in the prime of their lives," he said.

Requests to interview WHO experts on specific topics on the agenda can be arranged through Marilu Lingad at +63 918 918 1094 or e-mail: or Teena Nery at +63 2 528 9991 or e-mail:

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