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China, ASEAN seek ways to control tobacco
Updated: 2004-09-29 15:30

Health officials and experts from China, 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the World Health Organization (WHO) are gathering here to discuss measures to curb the global tobacco epidemic which causes 5 million deaths a year.

The officials and experts have focused their discussions on measures to raise the capacity of each country in dealing with tobacco production and consumption, and implement the measures via the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), WHO representative in Vietnam, Hans Troedsson, said at a press briefing about the ongoing ASEAN-China Workshop For Capacity Building and WHO FCTC.

The main measures touched by delegates include the implementation of bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; adoption of high taxes on cigarettes so that the taxes will represent 65-80 percent of their retail prices; requirement of stronger health warnings on cigarette packages; and the enforcement of policies which demand no-smoking in indoor workplaces and public places.

"Vietnam has conducted many campaigns to promote tobacco-free activities such as workplaces, weddings and funerals without cigarettes. This helps considerably reduce the number of smokers among public servants and workers," Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Health Le Ngoc Trong said at the briefing, adding that over 50 percent of local men and around 3 percent of local women are smokers.

On Wednesday and Thursday, over 70 delegates to the four-day workshops, which was held by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health in coordination with the WHO and started on Monday, are to highlight the significance and realization of the FCTC. WHO's officials hope that the convention, which has been ratified by 32 countries, will become effective in the next few months. An article of the FCTC, the first global health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO, stipulates that 40 ratifications will be required before it enters into force.

Regarding the ASEAN which comprises of Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, three of its members, namely Brunei, Myanmar and Singapore have ratified the FCTC. China and Vietnam signed the convention last year.

The FCTC's objective is to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by providing a framework for tobacco control measures to be implemented by the parties at the national, regional and international levels in order to reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

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