Dr. Anie H Abdul-Rahman
Director, Environmental Health Services, Ministry of Health
2009 was the year I became involved with tobacco control in Brunei Darussalam. At that time, Brunei Darussalam was just about to enforce a new law, the Tobacco Control Order that was enacted in 2005 following Brunei Darussalam’s ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTCT) in June 2004. One of the provisions under the law was the use of pictorial health warnings and labelling on tobacco product packaging, and Brunei Darussalam was able to source images for use as pictorial health warnings with the help of SEATCA.
Since then, Brunei Darussalam has worked very closely with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and SEATCA towards achieving the objectives of the WHO FCTC in the region. SEATCA was instrumental in the establishment of the ASEAN Focal Points on Tobacco Control in 2010, an expert working group at the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development.
Throughout the years, SEATCA has proven itself as a very important partner in our fight against tobacco use in the ASEAN region. SEATCA has been with us, supporting us, working with us at every step of the way. We hope the cooperation and collaboration will continue to be strengthened for many years to come.
Happy 20th, SEATCA!
Dr. Anthony So
Director, Innovation + Design Enabling Access (IDEA) Initiative Professor of the Practice
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Greetings from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It is hard to imagine that twenty years have passed since the founding of SEATCA at a regional meeting that ASH/Thailand convened in Ayutthaya, Thailand and from our small seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Trading Tobacco for Health Initiative. What an amazing network of partners throughout Southeast Asia would come together to become one of the most effective advocacy efforts in tobacco control in the world.
Your continued work is an inspiration to all of us across the globe, from how you have built an entire generation of advocates in the region and taken on new challenges of vaping and e-cigarettes to the launch of new measures of accountability like Tobacco Industry Watch and the Smoke-Free Index.
I still tell the story of your work in my classes, from what you once described as the Head, Hand and Heart of the movement to the early efforts of the Cambodian Smoke-Free Buddhist Monks project. Our work together on the U.S. NIH Fogarty grant, I hope, continues to pay dividends, and I still remain in touch with researchers who trained under and contributed to that initiative. Thank you too for teaching all of us so much about movement building and how to work in the regional context over the years. We can look back with collective pride at what SEATCA has built—an enduring movement for tobacco control.
While I cannot be there with you in person, I am surely there with you in spirit. To Bungon, Yul, Mary, and my many old friends in SEATCA, congratulations on your 20th anniversary year. May you have continued success in your campaign for a tobacco-free future.
Dr. Aung Tun
Advisor, Tobacco and NCD Prevention & Control Program Ministry of Health and Sports
Smoke-Free Program Manager
Congratulations, SEATCA, for 20 years of success in tobacco control. Your organization has built eminent goodwill within the ASEAN community. With your commitment and sincerity, your organization has time and time again proved your worth and gained much-deserved recognition and fame.
Over the past 12 years that we have collaborated on tobacco control in Myanmar, we have advanced tobacco control policy in the region on four major issues in particular – taxation, tobacco advertising bans,
establishing smoke-free areas, and pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packaging. We have also worked well together on preventing tobacco industry interference and strengthening our national tobacco control working group. And with the support of SEATCA, Myanmar has achieved our very first smoke-free city, Pindaya in Shan State, Myanmar.
Congratulations from all of us for your successful journey of 20 years. We hope the same for the future and wish you all the best.
Dr. Daniel Kertesz
WHO Representative to Thailand
The World Health Organization has partnered with SEATCA for over five years to advance tobacco control policies in Thailand. This partnership is strong and productive, fueled by passionate adherence to a common purpose.
That purpose is protecting the Region from the scourge of tobacco. In this, SEATCA is fighting tirelessly, with courageous leadership, hard-hitting advocacy and insightful strategies. They support countries to develop and implement proven interventions recommended by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and use evidence-based messages to educate policy makers and the public on the harms of tobacco use, and to debunk myths expounded by the tobacco industry.
This informed advocacy has contributed to the recognition of tobacco control as a requisite for sustainable development. Over the years, SEATCA has created networks and built institutional capacity in countries, ensuring that the tobacco control response in ASEAN will be strong and sustained.
SEATCA’s bold leadership and innovative contributions are vital to collective efforts to protect humanity from the harms of tobacco use.
On its 20th anniversary, I wish SEATCA continued success in pursuing its mission to create a healthy, sustainable and tobacco- free ASEAN.
Retired Chief Environmental Health Officer, Enforcement and Legislation Unit
Malacca State Health Department
I have benefited greatly from SEATCA’s regional workshops on smoke-free cities initiatives and through our ongoing collaboration for tobacco control.
National legislation on tobacco control was introduced in Malaysia in 1993. While the key areas of tobacco control are addressed in the law, it falls short of being comprehensive.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Health has dedicated Assistant Environmental Health Officers (AEHO) enforcing the implementation of tobacco control legislation. During my time as head of enforcement, one of the key challenges we faced was ensuring compliance with the prohibition of smoking in smoke-free areas.
In 2008, the Malaysian NGO, Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWATCH) with technical assistance from SEATCA introduce the smoke-free city program to Melaka state. I was tasked with coordinating with MyWATCH and SEATCA to ensure the smoke-free city program was successfully implemented in Melaka. We faced many obstacles to get the state government to adopt the program – including resistance from a small segment of restaurant owners – but we successfully overcame those obstacles with technical and financial assistance from SEATCA. The regional smoke-free cities workshop organized by SEATCA enlightened me on key strategies and approaches to implement a smoke-free city. Apart from the knowledge gained, I got to know many key persons whom I relied on for advice and ideas.
Dr. Douangkeo Thochongliachi
National Professional Officer, Tobacco Free Initiative
World Health Organization
SEATCA has done great work on tobacco control in Lao PDR over the years, especially supporting the development and implementation of legislation related to raising tobacco taxes, creating smoke-free environments, protecting policies from tobacco industry interference, and conducting advocacy on the harms of tobacco.
Their work has been accepted and acknowledged by the government of Lao PDR, particularly the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministries of Health, Finance, Industry and Commerce, Public Security, and Planning and Investment, as well as development partners. SEATCA has also collaborated with international organizations mainly the World Health Organization in supporting the government to combat the tobacco pandemic in Lao PDR.
Dr. Farzaana Adam
Senior Principal Assistant Director
Penang State Department of Health
SEATCA has been a valuable technical advisor to us in the implementation of the Smoke-free Penang Programme (PENBAR). Through SEATCA, Penang had the opportunity to host the 5th Smoke-free Cities Regional Workshop and the Summit of Smoke-free Leaders in July 2017. We were honoured by SEATCA’s recognition of our efforts in establishing Penang’s George Town World Heritage Site as a smoke-free environment. SEATCA has proven to be an important ally in supporting ASEAN countries in the implementation of effective tobacco control policies.
Dr. Ferdinal Fernando
Assistant Director & Head of the Health Division (HD)
ASEAN Human Development Directorate
Through my current work with the Health Division of the ASEAN Secretariat, in collaborating with SEATCA, I have witnessed the leadership and passion of key players and colleagues who have demonstrated their personal commitment to advocacy and ensuring tobacco control initiatives at regional and community levels. I have seen these leaders “walk the talk”.
From my perspective it is not the organisation or structure that matters most, it is the very people behind the institution that moves things and moves people. My good friends and colleagues in SEATCA have moved things and moved people. They have passionately, with critical paradigms or mindsets, contributed through empowerment and engagement in the implementation of ASEAN-wide activities such as the establishment of focal points for tobacco control, the launching of smoke-free campaigns, institutionalising smoke-free places and events, and sharing current data and evidence to further inform tobacco control initiatives.
International Development Research Centre
Twenty years ago, during a very formative stage of my life and career, I had the great privilege to be part of the “core group” of SEATCA at its inception. Finding my way in the first year of nearly six in Cambodia, I began as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development, aiming to bring some form of support to the first, emergent tobacco control programs and teams from government and civil society groups. Imagine the challenges we faced in trying to draw any attention at all to tobacco control in Cambodia as justice for genocide, political stability, infectious diseases and demining the landscape topped the issues list.
To some, in this context it was almost seen as an indulgence or insult to be seeking resources for such a public health issue, or to seem to be denying poor people of a deserved pleasure. Yet there was the tobacco industry blatantly, visibly exploiting the situation; flooding the streets and airwaves from Phnom Penh to the remote hills of Ratanakiri with cheap products and advertising, sponsoring sport, culture, agriculture and political parties and resisting, successfully, any attempt to suppress their marketing freedoms.
In their own documents, we discovered in relation to Cambodia, “…each major company seeking to establish a foothold. The motivation factor behind this is often not the domestic market itself, but more for the cross-border benefits”. The domestic market itself was, nevertheless, a business’ dream, with more than 60% of men smoking and a rapidly growing, youthful population.
A few stars of hope aligned for me and my colleagues at that time, as a regional alliance emerged and the bold support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the country and regional offices of the WHO enabled us and gave us the courage to build. SEATCA was at the outset, a reliever of isolation, helping a few motivated but inexperienced and rather lonely leaders to feel like they had the backing of neighbours with whom they could share their challenges and make their ambitious plans feel more feasible.
My early, fond memories of SEATCA are of the brave team who built it, core group meetings and multi-country workshops in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia.
The secretariat that led the coordination of SEATCA’s activities and meetings were a team, mostly women, based in Bangkok with the calm, capable leadership of Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee. They were supremely organised, hard working, patient and diplomatic. They were the advocate’s advocates: Not only for tobacco control, but for authentic partnerships and relationships between negotiators, navigating cross-border tensions, supporting the planners and building depth into SEATCA.
SEATCA’s meetings, training programs and workshops made the first attempts at building the field with economists, lawyers, political economists, communications experts and public health researchers: the pursuit of multi-disciplinarity that is critical to tobacco control. This was challenging, when expertise was thin on the ground and tobacco control was understood by some to be achievable by medical people alone.
The regional workshops helped establish and motivate the network. The timing, the host country and the policy priority to be discussed were strategically selected to give legitimacy and voice to the hosts such that they could advance an agenda among local policy makers. Having neighbouring countries and international experts visiting gave the locals the opportunity to present their evidence with the backing of an international community behind them, providing a platform to attract media and high-profile decision makers.
A core group of representatives and their supporters met regularly to strategise and build the relations that would be the greatest strength of SEATCA. SEATCA’s network was (and is) made up of government, civil society and academic members. Strategic advocacy was essentially what we were learning together; working to ensure that the demand for, and supply of evidence were aligned and efficiently used toward policy change.
Some of the most important lessons learned at that time, were about the value of prioritisation and focus. Faced with vastly different contexts in each of SEATCA’s countries, the need to raise the most basic levels of awareness and the naïve desires to do everything at once, it was a challenge to reach consensus on just a few policy priorities that SEATCA would focus on. However, that is what we did. As the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) came into being, providing a long menu of important and well justified actions that warranted commitment, SEATCA chose just four. To their credit, it seems to this day, those four remain the major focus – not because there has been a lack of achievement, but because focus has proven to be critical to maintaining incremental advances and prevented a dilution of effort, attention and precious resources. An unwavering focus on the policy priorities set in the early 2000s and pre-FCTC have been a key to success. This decision of the core group should not be any different if we were starting again. I understand this lesson has been the first to be passed on to others as similar alliances have emerged in other regions and sought the advice of SEATCA.
Despite some important core, resilient and reliable members, the Alliance has never been static. There has been much renewal of country representatives and ongoing outreach to new expertise. When progress in a country was hampered by staff turnover, SEATCA was there to connect new people to the network, make them feel part of the regional movement and help bring them up to speed quickly.
It’s worth noting that those who really initiated and led the development of SEATCA were predominantly women. So it remains. I wonder whether SEATCA would have been as focused, strong and sustained if it had been another otherwise.
Motivated by population health and social justice goals, and known internationally for their leadership, SEATCA could write their own book on strategic advocacy and field-building for other cause communities to learn from.
There is hardly a tobacco control policy win in Southeast Asia that SEATCA hasn’t had an important role in advancing. I imagine that if SEATCA had not formed and had the core support that it has had, the region’s tobacco control efforts might have remained an array of small initiatives, disconnected and well behind where they currently are.
SEATCA had to happen. We can be very glad that it remains today and gives confidence to a regional network that is stronger than its parts. I am proud to have been associated with something that continues to contribute so much.
Happy Birthday, SEATCA. Celebrate success in development, public health and international diplomacy. May you continue to lead and strengthen the tobacco control movement that is critical to overcoming an entirely preventable, commercially-driven epidemic and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in ASEAN.
Dr Judith Mackay
Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control
The moment SEATCA came into being in 2001, it was onto the tobacco industry. In those days, many governments and NGOs had little idea about the existence or scope of tobacco industry interference with policy. SEATCA organised a Workshop on ‘Working with the Media,’ where it issued “Proposed ethical guidelines on how a tobacco control advocate should respond” if approached by the tobacco industry. Reading the Guidelines today, they still apply one hundred percent.
But the difference is that today the rest of the world has caught up, recognising that tobacco control will never be achieved unless the tactics of the industry are exposed and neutralised.
For example, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) subsequently included an Article 5.3 on tobacco industry policy interference, and established a Knowledge Hub on Art 5.3. STOP, a three-way partnership between Vital Strategies in the US, the University of Bath in the UK and the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) in Thailand, was established.
SEATCA filled a niche. The Asia Pacific Association for Tobacco Control (APACT) was established earlier in 1989. But, after initially challenging US trade policies, APACT was confined to organising regular regional conferences, which provide an excellent opportunity for colleagues from around Asia to meet. SEATCA provided, and provides, an ongoing organisation with information and support for ASEAN countries. For example, SEATCA regularly publishes and distributes Tobacco Watch, and has published five atlases converting huge amounts of tobacco statistics into a colourful, lively, and immediately understandable graphic format.
I am greatly honoured to receive an award from SEATCA in 2022, as it marks a long and professionally rewarding association I have had with SEATCA and with colleagues.
Congratulations to SEATCA for your outstanding work over the past two decades.
Dr. Phan Thi Hai
Vice Director, Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund, Ministry of Health
We would like to express a special thank you to SEATCA for your valuable support to VNTCF. Over the last 20 years, SEATCA has stood by VNTCF’s side to advance tobacco control research, health communication, community interventions, and tobacco control policy development.
Vietnam acceded to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004, and passed the Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harms in 2012.
The country has advocated for increasing tobacco taxes, printing health warnings on tobacco packages, and regulating or banning tobacco advertising. Smoke-free environment regulations at workplaces and indoor public spaces have also been well-enforced. These successes are partly caused by SEATCA’s enthusiastic and effective support to us and other partners in Vietnam.
I personally have had the opportunity to work with SEATCA for the last two decades. It is such a valuable opportunity to work with SEATCA’s experienced, enthusiastic, and supportive experts, leaders, and staff.
Many thanks and best wishes.
Dr. Hana Ross
Principal Research Officer, Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP)
University of Cape Town
My collaboration with SEATCA began in 2002, a year after SEATCA was born. I was a fresh postdoc trying to figure out how to apply what I had learned in classrooms to the real world. After spending a few days with the SEATCA team, I knew I had landed in the right place: I was working with passionate advocates and public health professionals who wanted to understand tobacco control through an economic lens. In many ways, Thailand was already ahead of Europe and the US in terms of grappling with the burden of tobacco use, but there was so much more to do!
Eighteen years later, I am still collaborating with my SEATCA family. We both have much more experience: SEATCA grew from a national and regional NGO to a regional tobacco control powerhouse with international influence on policy development and tobacco control advocacy. I have written and published many scientific articles with SEATCA grantees and people I mentored together with SEATCA. I am very proud to have been a small part of SEATCA’s achievements, salute their independence and acumen, and am impressed by the research capacity they helped build in Southeast Asia.
Dr. Pham Thi Hoang Anh
Former Country Director
HealthBridge Foundation of Canada in Vietnam
As a cancer epidemiologist at the National Cancer Hospital in Hanoi, I always had an interest in tobacco control, but my true journey in tobacco control began when I joined the HealthBridge family in 2004.
My adviser introduced to me Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, who was known as the best tobacco control expert in the region and who headed SEATCA. She advised me to contact Ms. Ritthiphakdee to register for SEATCA’s training courses,
and that is how I found myself among the participants of a SEATCA training course on policy advocacy in tobacco control. Since then I have attended many other SEATCA workshops on various tobacco control topics. My tobacco control knowledge was built through my work at HealthBridge, but was also significantly boosted due to SEATCA’s capacity-building efforts.
I have worked with SEATCA for 13 years to fight the smoking epidemic in Viet Nam and in the region – first in the role of fellow, then as a partner and later as an adviser. I have been and remain inspired by the strong commitment of the SEATCA team. I also admire their strategic thinking and approach, strong networking skills, and great patience. I believe we will achieve our tobacco control goals in the region with support from SEATCA.
Dato’ Hatijah Ayob
Founder President & Past President
Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWATCH)
MyWATCH is grateful for SEATCA’s contribution which has been the single most important factor in driving the evolution of Malaysia’s tobacco control achievements to where it is today.
Upon its registration in 2005, the Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control and Health (MyWATCH) took over the tobacco advocacy role from the Heart Foundation of Malaysia, and became the first and only NGO in Malaysia dedicated to tobacco control advocacy.
At the beginning, MyWATCH activities were restricted to participating in seminars and exhibitions at ministry events to promote the annual World No Tobacco Day. Our role changed when we participated in SEATCA’s fellowship program. With training and funding from SEATCA, we were able to actively promote the WHO FCTC, ban cigarette kiddie packs, and establish smoke-free cities in Malaysia.
Through SEATCA-led networking, we have hosted several regional trainings and roundtables for tobacco control advocacy with universities, ministries, and companies. The creation of Green Lung, a youth grassroots movement, and the formation of the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control is a big boost for the country, but the adoption of our joint school/dental program by the Ministry of Health as the national tobacco control advocacy program for all medical schools in the country is the most the significant.
I am proud to vouch that MyWATCH to date has been the lead tobacco control society in Malaysia with many innovative programs involving a wide variety of audiences and partners. This may not have been possible without SEATCA’s support through their fellowship program and the grants they have awarded us. Thank you, SEATCA, for your professional guidance and for boosting MyWATCH’s work.
Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
On behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, I would like to thank SEATCA for its strong partnership and commitment to protecting health and human life through tobacco control. Over the past 20 years, SEATCA has built a world class technical resource center that has become a trusted source of expertise for national partners and governments alike.
They have been valuable contributors to the significant policy progress in Southeast Asia, including measures raising the price of tobacco products and graphic warning labels on packaging. Many congratulations to SEATCA on this 20-year milestone, and we look forward to continuing this journey together.
Former Coordinator, Tobacco Free Initiative
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
“It has been my great privilege to work with SEATCA over the years, and to witness firsthand your consummate professionalism and fearless efforts to advance tobacco control and public health in ASEAN countries. Yours has not been an easy task in a Region faced with high prevalence and entrenched tobacco use, coupled with strong and unscrupulous tobacco industry actors. Without your key role in bringing together important tobacco control stakeholders, creating indispensable tools and sharing knowledge throughout your wide network, important gains that the global tobacco control community has made in the Region – and beyond — would not have occurred.
After all, there is a reason why your leadership, past and present, is known to the tobacco industry and even features in corporate presentations on the barriers the industry faces in peddling its noxious products!
Congratulations, SEATCA, on the tremendous progress that you have made in protecting the health of people in the Region and around the globe – I raise my virtual glass not only to recognize your many accomplishments, but to wish you much continued success in the coming years!”
Dr. Mom Kong
Executive Director, Cambodia Movement for Health
SEATCA is an invaluable partner that we always consult with whenever we need technical assistance and other resources. Over the years, SEATCA has proved its commitment to assisting Cambodia whenever we have needed tobacco control support . We would not have achieved what we did without assistance from SEATCA. We all love smoke-free, and we all love SEATCA.
Professor Dr. Lakkhana Termsirikulchai
Head, Department of Health Education and Behavioral Sciences,
Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University
It has been 2 decades that I have worked with SEATCA. When I recollect all the memories I made, what do I see? I see my SEATCA colleagues who have worked determinedly and strategically on tobacco control. SEATCA’s work is based on evidence and knowledge which is used to implement effective tobacco control strategies and combat tobacco industry interference. One of the our biggest successes has been creating a regional smoke-free cities network and cooperating with city governors to expand our work and influence.
On this occasion of SEATCA’s 20th anniversary, I hope that we can continually grow and learn together, to be the force that fights against the tobacco companies that use new products and strategies to avoid tobacco control regulations. We will continue to fight against the tobacco companies that make profits off of the suffering and deaths of their customers.
Dr. Nguyen Tuan Lam
National Professional Officer, World Health Organization
SEATCA has provided an amazing capacity-building and networking experience in tobacco control for me over the past decade. Through my involvement with SEATCA’s activities and networks, I have been able to learn tobacco control best practices, success stories as well lessons learned from different countries in the ASEAN region and beyond. I have been able to get to know and participate in networking with tobacco control experts, government officers in charge of tobacco control from different countries in the region as well as from Viet Nam.
SEATCA’s exemplary way of work, which is based on dedication, mutual respect, and friendship have contributed significantly not only to the progress of the tobacco control movement but also to mutual understanding among the people in ASEAN.
Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza
Former Commissioner, Civil Service Commission
President, HealthJustice Philippines
Bravo to SEATCA for its 20 years of great accomplishments to move the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and build a strong global alliance on tobacco control!
On a personal note, I must thank SEATCA for my enlightenment on the horrors of smoking and the menace that the tobacco industry inflicts on our beautiful world. Despite a long history of evidence that tobacco use kills 9 million human beings a year, the tobacco industry continues to undermine tobacco control efforts.
With SEATCA’s partnership, technical assistance, grants, and capacity-building activities, HealthJustice Philippines (HJ) has grown into a strong organization. It has built a network of advocates and partnerships with key tobacco control and health promotion institutions. HJ was able to successfully push for policies and legislation on higher tobacco taxes, the optimum utilization of those taxes, graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging, and more recently the inclusion of health promotion in the Universal Health Care Law. These are all helping to create a stronger policy environment on tobacco control and health promotion in the Philippines. SEATCA’s publications and website are rich sources of information for tobacco control advocates and its initiatives on South-South cooperation are noteworthy.
Mabuhay ang SEATCA!
Technical Officer, Tobacco Free Initiative
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
Many tobacco control achievements that have been made in the Western Pacific Region wouldn’t have happened without SEATCA.
Always turning thoughts to and standing with local tobacco control stakeholders across various sectors, SEATCA has led the fight against the tobacco industry, with great perseverance, and kept tobacco control momentum in ASEAN countries and beyond. WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific’s partnership with SEATCA has brought about stronger regional allies to promote and implement the
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. I personally had the privilege to work with SEATCA national and regional workshops in supporting local governments, and I was inspired by how SEATCA builds trust with and guide local partners to achieve public health goals. In these workshops, SEATCA also never forgot to make sure tobacco control is fun and more exciting! Our fight for a tobacco-free world is far from ending, but the strong foundation SEATCA has built for this Region will surely help us go a long way.
Former Director of Planning and Programme Evaluation
Malaysian Health Promotion Board
I first became acquainted with SEATCA in early 2008, when the Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat) was established. From the beginning of my involvement in tobacco control advocacy, SEATCA was immensely helpful especially in identifying strategies to implement tobacco control programs at the community level.
I personally see SEATCA as the leader of the tobacco control movement in the Southeast Asia region. SEATCA is comprised of well-trained and sincere activists who are deeply committed and influential tobacco control advocates.
As allies in tobacco control, I have had several opportunities to work with SEATCA, and our collaborations have always been extremely successful.
I sincerely hope that SEATCA will be able to continue its mission until the dream of a world free of cigarette smoke comes true. I invite all individuals and organizations who share this dream to help SEATCA achieve its objective to make this world a healthier place to live.
Dr. Norashidah Binti Mohamed Nor
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
I feel honoured to be a member of SEATCA’s advisory committee. This platform provides an opportunity for all members from ASEAN countries to share their opinion and experience in addressing issues related to tobacco control. Besides that, various indices have been developed by SEATCA which are very useful to measure country progress in implementing a specific tobacco control policy.
Professor Dr. Prakit Vathesatogkit
Action on Smoking and Health Foundation
It has been 20 years since Dr. Anthony So, MD – an American Board Certified internist turned tobacco control advocate – visited ASH Thailand’s office to discuss a vision with me and Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee. He proposed that ASH Thailand become a focal point to strengthen tobacco control in Southeast Asia, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.
With Ms. Ritthiphakdee’s enthusiasm, we accepted the challenge and began the journey to found the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA). The first 6 years of activities concentrated on capacity-building, knowledge management, and advocacy skills on tobacco control for like-minded government and NGO colleagues from across Southeast Asia.
For two decades under SEATCA’s projects, I traveled widely in the region and beyond to share Thailand’s experiences and work with SEATCA’s country teams to advocate and lobby for a whole range of tobacco control policies. I have been very impressed by the SEATCA team’s passion and dedication to tobacco control.
Perhaps the greatest compliment to SEATCA and indication of its leadership and achievements came when it was identified by tobacco company Philip Morris International as a significant anti-tobacco threat to them in the ASEAN region, in documents that were exposed by Reuters in 2014.
SEATCA’s achievements have far exceeded my original expectations from when we were getting it started in 2000. But the war against tobacco is far from over. We must unite and continue to face the challenges, in particular to confront tobacco industry interference in policymaking, the most significant obstacle to tobacco control.
On a personal note, I have been privileged to work with and befriend the various members of the SEATCA family through the years. The SEATCA team reminds me of Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I extend special appreciation to Dr. Anthony So who conceived the idea, and to Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, who rose to the challenge and made it a reality.
Ho Rhu Yann
Malaysian Green Lung Association
On behalf of the Malaysian Green Lung Association, I congratulate SEATCA for all the impressive milestones it has achieved over the past twenty years. We have witnessed SEATCA’s remarkable leadership in rallying local government authorities, health agencies as well as tobacco control advocacy organisations in the ASEAN region to share, discuss and exchange insight and experience towards catalysing positive change in tobacco control policymaking.
We collaborated with SEATCA to conduct a retailer incentive survey, during which we experienced the professionalism and finesse of SEATCA in gathering evidence to support country counterparts in driving policy change. We believe in SEATCA’s vision and are convinced that your hard work is gradually and positively impacting millions of lives. We hope that SEATCA will continue to blossom and stay strong for many marvellous years to come!
Lecturer, KPJ Healthcare University College
I have participated in a series of workshops organized by SEATCA, particularly those related to smoke-free initiatives. SEATCA’s workshops have helped me learn navigation skills for my tobacco control work, to ensure I stay on track with a map and compass. Working with SEATCA has taught me the importance of empowering communities to take control of their health and wellbeing. I have gained not only immense knowledge, but also valuable exposure to networks and partners addressing the similar issues and challenges for tobacco control in the region. And SEATCA has always been supportive in assisting with the implementation of smoke free policies in a few major states in Malaysia, to establish Smoke-free Melaka and Smoke-free Penang.
Happy 20th anniversary, SEATCA!!
Dr. Rolando Enrique D. Domingo
Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health
Good day to all of you, my warmest felicitations and greetings to our colleagues whom we consider as our partners in public health advocacy. SEATCA, with its key initiatives focused on research, advocacy, and forging effective partnerships, has always been instrumental to the Philippine government in achieving challenging but important milestones in public health. This includes – among others – advocacy on laws and legislation governing tobacco and novel tobacco products, graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging, and emerging health issues where SEATCA has always been at the forefront leading and guiding the initiatives of civil society and disseminating information not only to public health professionals but to the general public as well.
Despite the continuously escalating magnitude and frequency of challenges, especially in our country, SEATCA has not waned in the exercise and accordingly, it has delivered on its promise to accelerate the achievement of the sustainable development goals through the reduction of tobacco product consumption across the ASEAN region. Their work has inspired many advocates who now assist the government in tobacco control and public health in general. Their dedication to the highest standards of service for public health is emulated by many who work in this field of advocacy.
I send my compliments to SEATCA for its immense contribution to public health in the ASEAN region. Congratulations on your 20 years of good and unwavering service for the betterment of society.
Dr. Susan Mercado
Special Envoy of the President for Global Health Initiatives
Republic of the Philippines
Director, Food Systems and Resiliency
Hawaii Public Health Institute
SEATCA’s work in Southeast Asia has not been easy, but the organization has prevailed as one of the leading tobacco control advocacy groups in the world. The region is one of the most rapidly advancing economic regions of the world, with an estimated 622 million people who face serious health risks from high tobacco use that results in half a million preventable deaths each year
For the past 20 years, SEATCA has built its credibility among donors and policymakers as it has led the way in implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
In particular, SEATCA has boldly championed the fight against tobacco industry interference in policies and programs, consistent with Article 5.3 of the FCTC – as the root of many obstacles to comprehensive tobacco control in the region.
SEATCA strategically plugged into the economic caucus of the region through its work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and successfully organized the ASEAN Focal Points on Tobacco Control (AFPTC) in 2010, which positioned tobacco control in the health and development agenda of the region through regional intergovernmental mechanisms.
SEATCA has achieved trail-blazing work in raising tobacco taxes, uptake of pictorial health warnings in all countries, and establishing smoke-free cities and world heritage sites. SEATCA has also worked with counterparts to make the tobacco industry pay for tobacco control through innovative legislation.
The work of SEATCA over the past 20 years brings to mind what Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” SEATCA, from its humble origins has changed the world in Southeast Asia through its unwavering commitment to a tobacco-free world.
Le Thi Thu
Tobacco Control and NCD Prevention Program Manager
HealthBridge Foundation of Canada in Vietnam
Since mid-2000, HealthBridge has partnered with the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) to support the Government of Vietnam to develop tobacco control policies and build the capacity of government and civil society officers. The commitment and efforts of the Vietnam government and National Assembly towards successful tobacco control legislation was gained with great support and contributions from civil society organizations, a key one being SEATCA.
The technical expertise, financial support, capacity-building, and knowledge-sharing provided and facilitated by SEATCA over the last 20 years has been invaluable. For example, the best practices Vietnamese policymakers learned from the Thai Health Promotion Foundation contributed to the successful establishment of the Tobacco Control Fund, a sustainable source of funds for tobacco control activities in Vietnam. SEATCA is a bridge through which ASEAN countries meet and share tobacco control strategies and expertise.
We are looking forward to working with SEATCA for another 20 years! Congratulations SEATCA on your 20th anniversary!
Wan Azrin Izani bin Wan Mohd Zain
Senior Principal Assistant Director, Health Education Ministry of Health
Former Director, Corporate Division
Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat)
It is an honour and pleasure to have worked together with SEATCA on many occasions to enhance smoke-free initiatives in Malaysia. The CEO of MySihat was chosen to lead the Smoke-Free Cities Asia Pacific Network (SCAN) in 2017. We were proud to have hosted several events including the 5th Smoke-free Cities Regional Workshop in 2017 and Malaysia’s Smoke-free Initiatives Updates Seminar in 2018. We would like to convey our heartfelt appreciation to SEATCA for their continual effort to free the people of this region from the harm of tobacco products. All the best to SEATCA for your future endeavours!
Dr. Widyastuti Soerojo
Core Group Coordinator, SEATCA
I have worked with SEATCA since 2005 when I first joined their advocacy workshop in Phuket. More than an ordinary participatory workshop, it was a true representation of SEATCA’s values and strengths – effective networking and capacity building, evidence-based advocacy, and quality technical assistance all within a fun and productive work environment. I piloted the SEATCA model in Indonesia through the Indonesian Public Health Association, and SEATCA facilitated the first tobacco control advocacy training in the country for 14 NGOs in 2006. We subsequently formed the Indonesian Tobacco Control Network.
The SEATCA model became the foundation for a systematic response to the tobacco epidemic in Indonesia, feeding into the Tobacco Control Support Center funded by Bloomberg Initiatives. With SEATCA, we have advanced national policy for pictorial health warnings on tobacco products and the MOEC Regulation No 64/ 2016 on Smoke-Free Schools.
In all my years working with SEATCA, I have received rich technical support and cultivated deep professional and personal friendships. I thank SEATCA for what all has invested in Indonesia’s tobacco control policy and advocacy efforts.
Datuk Dr. Yahya Baba
Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat)
SEATCA has played a major role in working together closely with governments, NGOs, development agencies, and academicians in strengthening tobacco control in the ASEAN region.
SEATCA (in collaboration with WHO) has made a great effort to raise the profile of smoke-free environments by supporting implementation and recognizing smoke-free cities and sites with an award. These smoke-free initiatives would not have been meaningful and successful without ownership of the program by state and local governments, along with the private and non-governmental sectors. These gains could not have been achieved without the support of partners including SEATCA.