Sixtieth meeting of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 21–25 September 2009, Hong Kong (China)
HONG KONG (China), 23 September 2009—The World Health Organization (WHO) today denounced the tobacco industry's attempts to undermine global efforts to reduce smoking.
While the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), ratified by all WHO Member States in the Region, provides countries with support to pass legislation and enforce effective policies, its greatest stumbling block is interference by the tobacco industry, WHO said. The industry continues to lobby and "partner" with organizations inside and outside government, asserting and maintaining influence on policy-makers, political leaders and researchers.
Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, stressed that "governments must recognize that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry's interests and public health policy interest."
To strengthen the fight against smoking, the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's governing body in the Region, meeting here, endorsed the Regional Action Plan (2010–2014) for the Tobacco Free Initiative, which is designed as a guide for the development and implementation of national action plans on tobacco control.
The Plan seeks to promote complete implementation of the FCTC, including mobilizing and empowering policy-makers, tobacco control advocates and communities. It also aims to strengthen government tobacco control programmes as well as protect public policy processes from interference from the tobacco industry.
Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that kills when used exactly as the manufacturer intends. With WHO's support, Member States are urged to take concrete actions and measures they can take to achieve an overall regional goal of zero tobacco use prevalence.
One third of the world's smokers reside in the Western Pacific Region, which has the greatest number of smokers, among the highest rates of male smoking prevalence, and the fastest increase of tobacco use uptake by women and young people compared to the other five WHO regions.
Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death globally, with more than 5 million people dying worldwide from the effects of tobacco every year. Tobacco-related deaths outnumber fatalities from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. It is estimated that two people die every minute from a tobacco-related illness, such as cancer, heart disease, strokes and respiratory illness.
The Regional Committee is meeting in Hong Kong (China) from 21 to 25 September, to review WHO's work in the Region and to formulate future health directions.