The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday urged Asia-Pacific countries to boost the use of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.
WHO regional director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young Soo said many developing countries have not yet started to put pictures of diseased organs or bold health warnings on their cigarette packs.
“People have a fundamental right to information about the harm that tobacco does, and countries have an obligation to provide it,” he said in a statement marking the release of a WHO report examining the status of global tobacco control.
The report showed that only 19 administrations in the world have implemented graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.
All 174 parties of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have agreed to the convention’s guidelines, which include putting images of diseased organs and large written warnings on cigarette packs, in a bid to discourage smoking.
Some governments were doing well, Young Soo said, naming Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Cook Islands, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand and Singapore.
“These countries have done a remarkable job in empowering people to quit through graphic health warnings,” Shin said. “But they represent fewer than 4 per cent of the 1.8 billion people who live in Asia and the Pacific,” he said According to the WHO, there are more than 480 million smokers in Asia and the Pacific, which has the world’s fastest growth of smoking uptake among women.
Latest WHO statistics also showed that tobacco use kills 6 million people each year worldwide, and 600,000 of these deaths were from exposure to second-hand smoke.
Shin praised Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon for her “bold and tireless” efforts to pass legislation on plain packaging for cigarettes in the country.
Plain packaging, which eliminates design features and brand names that make tobacco products attractive, is one of the recommendations of the WHO on tobacco control, but has been firmly resisted by the tobacco industry.
The WHO has also been calling for comprehensive bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.