The 2nd ASEAN Focal Points on Tobacco Control (AFPTC) Meeting was held last 10-12 May 2011 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The AFPTC, a committee composed of health ministry representatives from the ASEAN member countries, was formed last year to build consensus on tobacco control and other health-related matters.
Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) says the AFPTC plays a crucial role in strengthening tobacco control laws– and shaping healthier environments – throughout the region. “In the ASEAN, only Brunei, Thailand, and Singapore have comprehensive laws in place that create wider and more effective healthy zones featuring smoke-free workplaces, public transport, restaurants, bars, and other public places,” Ms. Ritthiphakdee says. ‘There are many other 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. Hence the importance of the AFPTC.”
Among the main items on the AFPTC agenda this week is the finalization of an ASEAN Biannual Plan on Tobacco Control for 2011-2012.
Tobacco control advocates such as the Vietnam Steering Committee on Smoking and Health(VINACOSH) and SEATCA say that ASEAN and other international bodies should be partners and become engaged in support of the implementation of the WHO-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), particularly for Article 8 on Smoke-free environments.
SEATCA notes that because of the AFPTC’s continuous cooperation, there is much hope and progress in the promotion of smoke-free environments in the coming months.
Even for the host country, there is much at stake. Dr. Phan Thi Hai, deputy director of the VINACOSH Standing office says: “We are happy to host the 2nd AFPTC Meetings, as it is a very critical time for Vietnam. We are trying to push for Hanoi to be 100 percent smoke-free. Currently, the government is in the midst of proposing stronger laws on tobacco use. The proposed law also would extend smoking bans to cinemas, children’s amusement parks, circuses, buses and airplanes and call for the creation of more designated smoking areas, hopefully by 2013.”
Article 8 of the WHO FCTC imposes specific obligations on all ratifying countries to protect their populations from second-hand smoke. It requires countries that have ratified the treaty to adopt smoke-free laws.
(For more on the AFPTC proceedings in Hanoi, Contact: Ms. Nguyen Thu Huong, VINACOSH Standing Office, Ministry of Health, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email: email@example.com)