More than 80 high level government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations from both the Western Pacific Region and South East Asia Region of the World Health Organization (WHO) gathered in Singapore from 22 – 24 February 2010 for the first joint Regional Workshop on the Implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
2 During the workshop hosted by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, 29 governments, including Singapore, shared their experiences and challenges in implementing the WHO FCTC and discussed ways to carry forward the work of reducing the prevalence of tobacco use within the two regions.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)
3 The WHO FCTC provides a framework for national, regional and international tobacco control measures. It is the first global public health treaty adopted by WHO which aims to address the serious health consequences of tobacco use through international action. A powerful global public health tool for tobacco control, the WHO FCTC is significant in that it sets standards on which countries will base their national tobacco control policies and initiatives. Its comprehensive approach encompasses reducing the demand and supply of tobacco products, and facilitating international cooperation and capacity building.
4 Currently, there are 168 parties to the Convention, which came into force in February 2005. The WHO FCTC was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2003 and achieved the first 40 ratifications in November 2004. Singapore ratified the WHO FCTC protocol in May 2004, the 14th member country of the World Health Organization to do so.
5 The focus now is on the implementation of the WHO FCTC and how the various countries can meet their obligations to the tobacco control treaty. Four sets of guidelines have been adopted by the Conference of the Parties. These guidelines cover the protection of public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial interests; protection from exposure to tobacco smoke; packaging and labelling of tobacco products; and tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. For details on the guidelines, please go to www.who.int/fctc
Consensus reached at the Regional Workshop
6 Held in conjunction with the marking of the fifth anniversary of the WHO FCTC’s entry into force, the meeting reviewed the achievements and challenges of implementing the Convention. The parties agreed to regional and international collaboration and rendering of assistance to successfully implement the treaty at country level. (for example, the establishment of databases for sharing of resources).
In Support of the Regional Workshop
7 “The Regional Workshop for South East Asia and Western Pacific on implementation of the WHO FCTC has served as an important platform for government officials to understand that it is their entire government’s responsibility, and not just their Ministry of Health’s, to fulfil their country’s obligations to ratify the WHO FCTC. It has also been an effective channel for the participants to see the need to improve public and private multi-agency co-ordination to ensure successful integration and alignment in tobacco control policy development,” said Dr Ahmed E Ogwell Ouma, Team Leader, Implementation Assistance and Partnerships, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, World Health Organization.
8 Mr Lam Pin Woon, Chief Executive Officer, Health Promotion Board emphasised, “We are very energised by the discussions that took place this week on the implementation of the WHO FCTC. Singapore will continue to strengthen our multi-pronged strategy of our National Smoking Control Programme. The Health Promotion Board, together with our partners, both government and non-governmental agencies, will work even more closely at policy and implementation levels to reduce the demand and supply of tobacco. Singapore will continue to fine-tune taxation and tobacco control legislation, and with public education and provision of smoking cessation services to further engage the community in effecting sustainable behavioural change.”
Upcoming global conference on tobacco control to be held in Singapore
9 Singapore will host the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in 2012, which will be attended by tobacco control practitioners, researchers and advocates. This conference will enable participating countries to build capacity and facilitate collaboration to tackle tobacco control in their respective countries and at the global level. There will be exchange of tobacco control and related information; sharing of recent achievements, failures, obstacles, challenges, etc.