Jakarta-(14 October 2011) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat has put forward initiatives toward a “smoke-free ASEAN”, lending much needed impetus to regional efforts to curb tobacco use in Southeast Asia.
Around 60 key ASEAN Secretariat officials and staff joined the orientation seminar on the ‘Hazards of Tobacco Use and Exposure to Tobacco Smoke” officiated by ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan and delivering the special keynote address. According to Dr Pitsuwan “Tobacco use has become a health crisis but it is a crisis that is preventable; it is a crisis that needs tremendous attention and cooperation among all Member States and partners.
Other officials from the WHO Indonesia, Ministry of Health Indonesia and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) provided technical input to the objective of the seminar to support regional efforts to arrest smoking and its toxic effects on individuals and society.
Dr Pitsuwan reminded staff, “Our effort to build an economic and integrated ASEAN community will be effected if we disregard this issue. This manmade epidemic causes tremendous economic losses. Resources and money allocated to treat tobacco related diseases is far beyond the revenue earned from tobacco tax revenue of governments.”
“ASEAN’s backing is crucial, as all governments in the region are strengthening tobacco control policy and legislation,” said SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee. “However there are many challenges in Southeast Asia, including a strong tobacco industry lobby that can interfere in the drafting of more progressive policies and laws on tobacco control. The global treaty on tobacco control the WHO-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control provides standards that can assist government, including Article 5.3 that warns governments on tobacco industry interferences.”
Ms. Ritthiphakdee congratulated the ASEAN Secretariat’s policy on Smoke-Free Working Environments which reinforces promoting healthy lifestyles and clean environments.
The memorandum ‘ASEAN Secretariat as a Smoke-free Working Environment’ for its staff and visitors calls upon them to strictly enforce the “No-smoking” policy in all rooms, toilets, lobby and passageways, and ‘the health, safety and welfare’ of all staff working in the ASEAN Secretariat Building is emphasized.
SEATCA is hopeful that with the fore-running efforts of the ASEAN Secretariat, there can be greater hope and progress in the promotion of smoke-free environments in the ASEAN (ENDS).