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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Ministers pledge to reduce tobacco use

Ministers pledge to reduce tobacco use

Health ministers from 11 countries sign a declaration pledging to accelerate hard-hitting measures to reduce tobacco use

Tobacco kills 1.3 million people in the region every year. Photo: BloombergPremium
Tobacco kills 1.3 million people in the region every year. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Tobacco kills 150 people every hour in the South-East Asian region. Concerned at the high consumption, health ministers from 11 countries on Monday signed a declaration pledging to accelerate hard-hitting measures to reduce tobacco use.

“Tobacco use in South-East Asia is alarmingly high, triggering major health and economic consequences. Tougher actions are needed for tobacco control and prevention. Countries must equally tax all tobacco products, ban tobacco ads, enforce pictorial warning on cigarette packs and implement ban on public smoking," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO, South-East Asia, at the adoption of the declaration spearheaded by WHO.

The Dili Declaration, signed in the capital of Timor-Leste where the 68th regional committee meeting of the WHO South-East Asian region began on Monday, calls on the governments, UN agencies and partners to accelerate tobacco control. The region accounts for over one-third of the world’s tobacco use.

Tobacco kills 1.3 million people in the region every year. This includes people who have never used tobacco themselves, but were exposed to second-hand and third-hand tobacco effects. The region is home to 25% of the world’s smokers and 90% of the world’s smokeless tobacco users, about 246 million and 290 million people respectively.

The prevalence of different types of smokeless tobacco is on the rise—that which is chewed, or sucked, snuffed orally or nasally, sipped or gargled, or applied to teeth and gums.

Tobacco use has been identified as one of the major risk factors for lung and heart disease and cancer. In 2012, an estimated 62% deaths in the region were attributed to non-communicable diseases; of these 48% of those who died were below 70 years. These premature deaths are not only a loss to the families, but also have a huge economic impact on the country, Singh said in her inaugural address at the regional meeting.

“We need to enforce stringent policies and measures to help people reduce and eventually quit tobacco; to prevent the youth and children from taking to tobacco use; and to protect people from second-hand tobacco smoke," she said, calling for stricter implementation of tobacco control and prevention guidelines as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Implementing the recommendations of the WHO FCTC, countries have increased the pictorial warning on tobacco products. In Nepal the pictorial warning covers 90% and in Thailand 85% of the cigarette packs. The Maldives and Nepal have banned all tobacco advertising.

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Published: 08 Sep 2015, 01:04 AM IST
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