Siem Reap, Cambodia, 28 November 2019: Around 200 smoke-free leaders and representatives from cities all over Asia Pacific are gathered in the home of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to discuss steps to promote and strengthen smoke-free tourism in different cities and heritage sites.
Organized by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) together with the Ministry of Tourism (MOT), Cambodia and the World Health Organization in the Western Pacific Region, SEATCA’s 7th Asia Pacific Smoke-Free Meeting with the theme: “Smoke-Free: Linking Cities to Advance Tourism and Preserve our Heritage” happening from 28 to 29 November 2019 hopes to share and discuss strategies, challenges, and plans to strengthen smoke-free tourism, particularly from well-known tourist and heritage sites, including a study visit to the Angkor Archaelogical Park which has been smoke-free since 2012.
“Tourism is an important economic driver of cities like Siem Reap. Successful tourism relies not only on individual attractions but on a clean and healthy environment. As more and more people are able to travel, it is important to strengthen the smoke-free campaign of tourist spots of cities to maintain fresh air and create a healthy environment for citizens and tourists alike,” said Dr. Domilyn Villarreiz, Smoke-free Program Manager of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and Secretary-General of the Smoke-free Cities Asia Pacific Network (SCAN).
During the two-day regional meeting, the delegates from cities, municipalities, provinces and states with smoke-free heritage sites will share how they have integrated smoke-free into their tourism campaigns. Some of the heritage sites that were recognized by SEATCA that had maintained their smoke-free campaign are Angkor in Cambodia, Borobudur, Prambanan, and Sewu Temples in Indonesia, Malacca and Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, Luang Prabang and Vat Phou, Champasak in Lao PDR, the Ancient Town of Hoi An, and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Bagan and Pindaya Caves in Myanmar,. SEATCA also recognizes the new smoke-free heritage and historical sites such as Batu Ferringhi, Penang, Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor in Bataan, Tinuy-an Falls, Heritage town of Jimenez in the Philippines.
“Multiple studies show that tourists prefer to travel to places where the environment is healthy and making a tourist attraction 100% smoke-free is a sure way to make it healthy for everyone. A non-smoking environment will also aid in preserving old monuments and buildings and prevent non-biodegradable cigarette butts from littering the environment,” added Villarreiz.
Recognizing the importance of protecting heritage sites from fires and smoke damage due to smoking of tobacco and indiscriminate discarding of cigarette butts and the importance of protecting all people within these sites from the hazards of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, conservation authorities should develop and enforce a strong and comprehensive policy to prevent and reduce tobacco-caused damages in order to preserve their cultural and natural values as well as protect staff and visitors from diseases and untimely death.
“In the region, most countries have comprehensive laws in place to create wider and more effective health zones featuring smoke-free workplaces, public transport, restaurants, bars and other public places. We hope this meeting will make more frequently visited tourist attractions in cities smoke-free because smoke-free tourism is not only good for the economy, but more importantly good for health and the environment,” said Villarreiz.
This is the second year that the theme of SEATCA’s Asia Pacific Smoke-Free Meeting is focused on smoke-free tourism. It is hoped that this will set the direction for all tourist and heritage sites to become smoke-free not just in Asia Pacific but globally.
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.