Travelers and staff now protected at smoke-free Vientiane–Wattay International Airport

Vientiane, 31 May 2019: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) commends Lao PDR’s  move to ban smoking inside the passenger terminals of Vientiane – Wattay International Airport to protect employees and travelers from the harmful effects of secondhand tobacco smoke.  

“Congratulations to Lao PDR! This is a positive and proactive move by the government, and we urge the ministries involved to monitor compliance and strictly impose the penalty to ensure the success of this policy,” said Dr. Domilyn Villarreiz, SEATCA’s Smoke-free Program Manager and Secretary-General of Smoke-free Cities Asia Pacific Network (SCAN), speaking at the launch of the smoke-free airport in Vientiane today.

Last 20 May, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Health closed the smoking rooms in the airport’s passenger terminals and placed no smoking signs all over the airport. Those caught violating the policy will receive a disciplinary warning during the first offense and will be fined 200,000 Kip (approximately US$ 23) on the second offense. Repeat offenders will be fined 400,000 Kip (approximately US$ 46).

Article 8 Guidelines of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on the Protection from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke state that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and only 100 percent smoke-free environments can fully protect the public from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals including at least 70 that cause cancer and other toxins that cause serious diseases.

“This initiative by the Lao government is very timely as we celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) today with the goal of raising awareness on the negative impact of tobacco use  on people’s lung health, from chronic respiratory diseases to cancer.  Studies have shown that secondhand smoke can transfer from designated smoking areas into non-smoking areas in airports, exposing travelers and employees to harm. In addition to involuntary secondhand smoke exposure, designated or ventilated smoking areas can also result in involuntary exposure of airport employees who are required to enter these areas or work near them,” added Villarreiz.

International passenger traffic in Wattay Airport is expected to double over the next five years and reach 1.5 million by 2023. Close to 700,000 international passengers and around 300,000 domestic passengers pass through the airport annually according to the data from the Ministry of Tourism. 

“Tourism is an important economic driver of countries like Lao PDR. Successful tourism relies not only on available and efficient tourism infrastructure such as airports and other transportation facilities but also on a healthy and welcoming environment. This is a big move by the government and is not only good for the environment but ultimately good for people’s health and the economy,” added Villarreiz.

In Asia, besides Wattay Airport, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzen, Brunei, Bangkok, Davao (Philippines) and all airports in Australia are smoke-free. Early this year, Thailand banned smoking inside the passenger buildings of all its airports. Brunei is the first international airport in ASEAN that became smoke-free. The example set by these cities and countries should encourage other governments to do the same to protect the health of everyone.

Contact:
Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA

Email: wendell@seatca.org | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 ##

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About SEATCA
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.