Materia Medica Malaysiana

May 22, 2008

Asean nations must make health warning on tobacco a priority

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:42 am

NST: ASEAN nations should speedily introduce strong tobacco packaging and labelling laws which have proven effective in spreading the anti-smoking message. This was the message from senior government officials, civil society officials and World Health Organisation representatives from the grouping who met in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Joining their appeal were experts from Mongolia and Australia attending a two-day regional workshop on tobacco controls. The call comes at the end of a three-year deadline for the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Cambodia to introduce large and effective health warnings on tobacco product packages and comply with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). All Asean countries, with the exception of Indonesia and Myanmar, have ratified the WHO FCTC, committing to implement tobacco control policies that, among others, will require more prominent and graphic health warnings on tobacco products within three years. Thailand and Singapore have implemented the requirements. Article 11 of the WHO FCTC states that warning messages on tobacco product packages should cover at least 50 per cent of the principal display areas of the package. It also requires multiple health warning messages to be sent out, encourages the use of pictures and pictograms, and prohibits misleading terms such as “light” and “mild”. Thai National Committee for the Control of Tobacco-Ministry of Health member Dr Prakit Vathesathogkit said Asean governments should play a crucial role in providing support for national tobacco control policies to be put in place. “All Asean countries should consider making action on health warnings on tobacco products a top priority,” Action on Smoking and Health Foundation secretary-general said. South East Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) director Bungon Ritthiphakdee said Asean nations must place prominent warnings in public places as required by the WHO FCTC as pictures spoke louder than words. She said studies in the region had found that prominent health warnings in cigarette packs, including pictures, were far more effective in educating smokers and the public about health risks than text-only warnings. The two-day Article 11 meeting, supported by the Singapore Health Promotion Board, ASH Thailand and Vichealth Centre for Tobacco Control-Australia, also focused on best practices, examining experiences as well as challenges in drafting laws and implementing such laws.

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